By Anne Maxwell
My 7-year-old niece has no problem drumming up entertaining conversation.
From observations about sharing a bathroom with two older brothers:
“Boys are SO. MESSY.”
To divulging dietary secrets of her rather big-boned (fat) cats:
“I feed them a special formula.” (i.e. LOTS of regular cat food)
Isabella Marie -- “Izzy” -- is long on personality and never short of words. I love our verbal volleys, like the one we enjoyed a few months ago.
We were discussing everything and nothing all at once as we enjoyed a summer evening on my patio when she shared:
“I’m 20 percent tomboy and 80 percent -- you know -- regular girl … it’s really kind of complicated.”
I had to smile, especially when I later passed along that information to her father -- my brother, who shook his head and replied: “I’m just relieved the math adds up.”
Our little discussion left me thinking how girls Izzy’s age -- or perhaps even her Auntie Anne’s age – wrestle with the need to define ourselves. This categorization begins early and usually finds us drilling down a list of standard questions.
Are you athletic, like to climb trees? Tomboy.
Love to paint your nails, take dance and wear dresses? Girly girl.
Always have your nose in a book? Serious.
I appreciated how Izzy chose to keep the lines blurred for herself. Not simply checking one box or the other. And I especially respected her ability at an early age to hone in on what we all learn in time: we are a wondrous mixture of many sides, many traits.
And it’s just as it should be.
Some of the most interesting people you’ll meet in life always keep you guessing. You may know their general likes or preferences, styles or routine, but they never allow themselves to get stuck in a rut. They change.
They push themselves.
They allow things to get uncomfortable at times.
As Izzy would tell you, it’s complicated.
My hope for Izzy is my hope for all of us out there. Don’t apologize for who you are. Don’t try to define yourself by labels.
Shine forth, walk tall and resist any temptation to water yourself down. Embrace what you love and hold tight to the opportunity to try new interests. If it’s complicated or messy, that’s ok. No matter what percentages you assign to the sum that equals who you are, remember to be one thing and one thing only:
100 percent authentic.
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