Take Time to be 10 Again
Soaring down hills on my roller skates. Building forts and going fishing. Staging puppet shows. Rescuing chipmunks from our cats’ claws. Dancing. Dreaming.
Being ten years old in 1978 meant imagining what was possible. Would I be an undercover agent in disguise? A veterinarian? Or maybe a cruise director on a beautiful ship. Why not all three?
Back then, I was a force of nature and believed my powers and possibilities were limitless.
When my daughters were ten, they were also explorers, growing into themselves — changing their minds all the time about what they liked and didn’t like, whether it was people, food or activities. Which friends were “sleepover worthy” and which activity should we try next? In one year, they must have tried basketball, karate, jazz dancing, photography, ballet, musical theatre, soccer, softball, lacrosse, oh and a few different musical instruments too. Sure, they had challenges — the third-grade teacher was tough and homework piled up and some girls developed attitudes and cliques.
Yet underneath it all, those 10-year-old selves were strong and tough — excited by life and not yet over run by it. We were hopeful about our futures and not too aware of possible limitations. We had the courage to try new things, a voice we used to stand up for ourselves and others and an inner confidence that was unshakeable. So…what happened to those unstoppable 10 year old girls? To me and to them?
When my girls were just one and three years old, my unhealthy marriage began to unravel, leading to a painful divorce and difficult questions that pushed me even further from the spirited 10 year old I once was. What do I have to offer the world? What is my worth? What is my direction? How can I raise these girls on my own? How did I end up here?
I could not find my own center, never mind the evasive happily-ever-after I thought was a given in life. As I struggled with these questions, and eventually found my way, I still worried for my girls. I was afraid that “ten” was considered perfect for a reason: it all goes downhill from there for girls.
Reading “Reviving Ophelia,” I was struck by the author Mary Pipher’s observation: “Something dramatic happens to girls in early adolescence. Just as planes and ships disappear mysteriously into the Bermuda Triangle, so do the selves of girls go down in droves. They crash and burn in a social and developmental Bermuda Triangle.”
It happened to me, and I feared it would happen to my girls too.
Yet I wanted a different ending to my own story, and to theirs. I felt a very clear calling to ensure that my daughters — and ALL girls — could reclaim their “ten-ness,” could reconnect with the spirit of being 10.
This newly discovered purpose inspired my career path and sparked my entrepreneurship. I became a school counselor, spending 12 years guiding children through the ups and downs of adolescence. I founded our local council of the pioneering Girls on the Run movement, now 20 years strong and still empowering girls every season. My journey continues today as a life and leadership coach, driven to serve and to champion others on life’s winding path.
I try to channel my inner 10 year old, to capture that spirit of fearlessness, and tap into her confidence. Sometimes I reach it. Like last weekend, when I made a new friend. She invited me to play pickle-ball — a game I had barely heard of and certainly never played. I had a million reasons to say no, to politely suggest we take a walk together instead (because no one laughs at me when I walk. I couldn’t say the same about pickle-ball.) But somehow, the plucky 10-year-old inside me decided to say “YES” instead. That little girl in me cheered as 53-year-old me swung that pickle-ball racket wildly and had the most fun I’ve had in a while.
Perhaps it is time for all women to reflect on the best parts of their ten-year-old selves and reclaim some of her wonder, magic, strength and curiosity.
Who were you at ten and what were the best parts of your girl who played, explored and conquered with reckless abandon? What would she say to you today? What advice would she give the version of you that is often far too self-critical, too fearful of risk or lacking in curiosity?
As you consider it, try this: write down 5 adjectives that would describe the 10-year-old you and 5 things she did just for fun. Did she run? Dance? Bake? Read? Build? You can still do (most) of those things. Reclaim those girlhood sensations and qualities within yourself and see if there is a spark of adventure that 10-year-old can elicit…or maybe a new sport to try, a new friend to make, a new adventure that is calling.