Let me take you on an escapade…
A very grownup book on careers prompted me to remember my 8 year old self. Somewhere during the period when boys start to notice us and worries about financial security set in, the 8 year old spitfire we used to have seems to get muted. It’s not lost forever, but with all of life’s madness, we just stop paying attention to it.
It was definitely fun revisiting 8, taking a very welcome break from 29…
The year was 1990. If I loved anything more than music, it was dance. I thought I would grow up to be like Janet Jackson. She was (and still remains) one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. I knew the choreography for all of her dances, especially “Pleasure Principle.” If you somehow ended up in my living room, I would sit you down for a Janet performance. I even saved money in a “Rhythm Nation” piggy bank, shaped like Janet’s iconic hat from the video. It was made out of construction paper and a butter bowl, an idea I borrowed from Highlights, the source for most of my brainstorming back then.
I didn’t think I’d ever find a guy more amazing than the Fresh Prince. And it’s quite possible that the show’s theme song was the first hip hop rhyme I ever knew. New Kids On The Block themed birthday parties and snap wrist bracelets were my world. I grew up in Queens Village, where I was exposed to so many rich cultures on top of my family’s own multicultural melting pot. I grew up in the bootleg era, the less genteel version of the Internet, and would buy the wares of music vendors on Jamaica Ave. Always the smart shopper, I would ask, “Will you be at this spot tomorrow in case this tape is blank?” I’d let them know the guy up the block would sell me 3 for $5 just for a better deal. And I’d usually seal it, since grown men couldn’t get over the little girl with the messy ponytail and her hand on her hip, seriously trying to drive a hard bargain.
I had chubby cheeks, a shiny face, and a front tooth that hadn’t quite grown in. My hair was usually in some sort of ponytail, although the side pony was my favorite. I was in third grade, in Mrs. Morkaut’s class. A class darling, the quiet model student, until recess started and I played hard with my classmates.
My answers to the word “No” were “Why not?” and “Watch me!” especially if the challenge came from a boy.
The sweetness I had as an 8 year old is still there, but the confidence is quieter. The fire returns when I’m truly passionate about a cause. After realizing this about myself, I want to turn that fire into a firestorm.
I’m working on it.
I don’t see 8 a lot these days, but I do get to see 10 quite often. My fifth graders have the spark. The fearless “Why not?” in their eyes. The idea that they are amazing, and that whatever career path they choose will be lucky to have them because of their special brand of amazing.
Who were you at 8 years old? What’s your brand of amazing?