By Kris Radish
Lives are formed and prodded and pushed off shore by many people and events—parents, friends, the crushing blows of lies, assumptions, the pains and perils of love, experiences that teach us how to live and survive and in my case the absolute joy of being able to say, "I was a Girl Scout and I owe them so very much."
I've had one heck of a career as a journalist, author, business owner, teacher, mother...but there is never a day when I don't know for certain that so much of who I am came from an organization that empowered me to be...just me.
There's no concrete memory of my little girl self proudly looking at the image in the mirror of a seven year old admiring the first view of herself in a Brownie Girl Scout uniform. I know with certainty that it was a moment of absolute joy, pride, and excitement.
It was the 1960's and girls were still taking home economics classes and were told they were no good at math while the boys got to do mechanical drawings and be class presidents. I somehow always had a sense that things weren't quite right with the powers that held the balance between the males and females in the world.
I was tall, gangly, read a lot of books and was quickly labeled by my teachers as a big mouth girl who liked to laugh, asked too many questions, and was someone who needed to be kept in her place. Well, my place was still uncertain to me but I also had manners and I often felt lost and alone.
Even back then my mind was a wild and exciting planet. I wanted to climb the same mountains I read about in my books. I wanted to build my own campfire, stay up all night watching stars, sing whenever a song bust into my throat and travel the world like a gypsy. I wanted to try new things, meet girls who were not all the same, have more fun.
Then I became a Girl Scout and suddenly it was as if someone had given me a key to a door that I had been told I could never enter. It was the beginning of everything for me.
I knew I had found my first place. I became a Junior Girl Scout and no one said, no, you can't do that, or looked at me with disgust when I suggested something like a sleepover on the roof. By the time I was a Cadette I was smart enough to realize that Girl Scouts was not just giving me the world, but proving that I could also own a huge piece of it.
What happened next still makes my heart dance as if I've just been asked to have lunch with Oprah. I went from a small grade school to a large high school miles away from my little Wisconsin town. I was scared, withdrawn, really tall, and I knew absolutely no one. When I thought my life was over I somehow discovered that there was a Senior troop and I could be in it.
I still cry when I think about this. I cry because I found my place again, and because I found a group of like-minded girls who were turning into women who not only accepted me, but seemed to love being with me. I cry because Mrs. Baker, our fabulous leader, became my first real adult friend and she never admonished me or told me I was stupid or shot down my ideas. I cry because being in the troop made me realize that anything was possible and that when someone did say no, it was OK to prove them wrong. I cry because Mrs. Baker, and my friends in the troop, didn't laugh at me when I told them I was going to be a writer and go to college and travel the world. I cry because I know I was loved and that everything from singing in a circle to working on food baskets for the needy involved a lesson that changed my life. I cry because I had adventures that I had once only dreamed about, and found lasting friendships, and learned that a little girl from Big Bend, WI, can be whatever and whoever she wants to be.
Now, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see that little girl before she had braces, and glasses, and wrinkles. I see her excited eyes and what she has yet to do, and feel, and accomplish. I know that little girl is still inside of me and that she will always be a Girl Scout and she will always, always, always be grateful.
Award-winning journalist and nationally acclaimed bestselling author Kris Radish embarks on a journey of early women's rights with the release of The Year of Necessary Lies.