Wednesday, June 9, 2010
The Rebel Deb Rocks Flat Rock
Today, I visited the sixth grade girls at Flat Rock Middle School. I was a special end-of-the-year speaker, who was supposed to talk to them about careers, boys, and female empowerment. All topics I LOVE to discuss, and all of which I could go on and on (and on) about, right? And in the past couple years, I've done TONS of public speaking, literally all over the country. In Indianapolis, I charmed a crowd of 950 women and men -- most of them much older than me, and many of them predisposed to think of me as a sarcastic, over-sexed "whippersnapper." And yet, I sold them 350 (!!) copies of my book... every single copy I had on me that day. After that, you'd think I could face down anyone...
And yet, there I was this morning: Nervous. A bit shaky. Wondering how in God's green earth I was going to entertain (and hopefully help) these young girls, all of them caught right in the midst of hellish adolescence.
There were about 50 girls in the room when I walked in. All the usual suspects... the cliches of preppy, pretty, fancily-dressed cheerleaders. The angry loners. The shy, quiet, studious types who had their notebooks open and pencils ready as they attempted to capture my (supposed) pearls of wisdom. At first, I wasn't sure how to begin. There was SO MUCH I had to tell them:
1) Don't get pregnant!
2) Go to college
3) LOVE (and stop being so hard on) yourself
4) And that goes for others, too. Stop being so mean; you're only eleven!
5) Remember to stay true to who you are -- not who others might want you to be, and
6) Did I mention the "don't get pregnant" part? Well, don't. (Please?)
Looking around the room, taking a beat to really examine their different faces, I saw myself as a sixth grader: Insecure. Lonely. Scared. Hurt. But most of all: Wanting to feel like there was something better awaiting me. A light at the end of horrible tunnel of middle-school.
And that's when all my fears evaporated.
I'd prepared to speak for about 45 minutes -- long enough to teach them something about choosing a career path that makes you happy (instead of simply making you money), but not long enough to lose their attention altogether. But instead, I ended up staying almost two hours. I told them all about myself as a sixth grader -- how I felt chubby and unpopular and weird and loserish -- and, somehow, I reached them. They could all relate somehow -- even the preppy, pretty ones felt ugly and alone sometimes. I could feel their enthusiasm rising, and they started asking questions, and I felt myself changing (in some small part) their feelings about themselves. Got them thinking about how to help one another to achieve instead of tearing each other down. Started them on the path towards empowerment instead of pettiness. Encouraged them to believe in their potential.
This, more than any other speaking engagement I've done or any book signing I've taken part in, was my favorite Rebel Deb event. Because instead of the world getting to meet the Rebel Debutante, the Rebel Debutante got to meet the world... of the future, that is. The best part of today: When you move past all the negative influences (bad parenting, biased media, hormones and peer pressure, etc etc etc) that these girls are facing... it looks pretty bright. And full of future Rebel Debs.