High school. These two words instantly conjure a tidalwave of emotions. Go ahead, ask anyone who has survived it and they can give you a seemingly endless list of adjectives that describe their emotions and experiences in those short, yet seemingly endless (there seems to be a recurring theme here) crucial years.
Why am I thinking about high school when I'm over ten years out of school and have two young children who aren't even close to entering kindergarten? It seems that my book is one that will speak to the teen audience as well as the elementary age and adult populations I initially had in mind when writing it. Somehow in my path to bring this book to life (about three years now) I focused my energy on the girls directly served by the Girls on the Run program (and as I'm learning now through my entry into the world of running and self-esteem building for young girls - a good number of other programs!) and the adult runners that serve as mentors, coaches and MY peers. I've been so focused on these two groups that I managed to glaze over a good quarter of girls' lives (the four years mentioned in the opening paragraph!) that are essential in the forming of a woman's identity. Gulp!
I hadn't considered the application of the book to these girls until our web design service provider, Jenn, brought it to my attention. It just so happens that she is our local high school's drill team coach and is interested in me talking with her girls before they head to their national competition in February. She first talked with me about her girls yesterday and mentioned that the book and the background behind it (ie all of the material she's helped us organize for the website!) have inspired her to add running to her life. First of all, I was stunned (and excited and honored and and and) that my book would have such an impact that it would encourage someone to run (maybe I should read it daily to encourage me to run a little more frequently myself!). Then I got nervous. Those two words caught me off guard: high school.
In my copious free time (somewhere between business meetings, being a full-time mom, sewing a few dozen Christmas gifts, visiting the treadmill, making dinner, feeding the dog, actually having a real conversation with my husband once the kids are in bed . . . ) I've been planning an interactive author visit plan for when I visit schools to share We Are Girls Who Love to Run and the concepts behind it. My vision for the visits include kids sitting in rows on the gym floor with their legs tucked under them while their teachers sit on small chairs at the ends of the rows monitoring the little critters. After the kids applaud, they have 5 minutes to ask me anything they want to know. Questions like "What's your favorite book? Do you have any pets? and How old were you when you started running?" are generally what I play through my mind.
Enter the high school drill team. I take a deep breath and plunge under the wave that's about to knock me over. My mind takes me back to my days on my high school pom pon squad (similar to a dance team/drill team combo). We were serious - serious about perfection, serious about practice (daily and weekend, not to mention the 6AM practices in the summer before parade season, camp and the start of the school year), serious about everything. My experiences as a "pom" were quite mixed. SO . . . now comes the challenge of sorting through the ups and downs, the reality of how it formed who I am today and my mission to promote a healthy, balanced life-style (my years on the squad were not a good example of this, but could have been with the right mix of mentors).
I want to approach the girls so they get the message without me seeming preachy or too pie-in-the-sky optimistic. I'm glad I have until January to work on this author visit, as this is probably one of my most important audiences - real girls who are looking for real inspiration to usher them toward their goals, and real girls who will see me for who I am. I can't even imagine what the question line-up will be, but I do know that by facing this personal challenge and staying true to my beliefs and experiences that this girl (favorite book: Under the Tuscan Sun, pets: one black lab mix, Albus, age started running: 23) will be ready for any audience.
Thanks, Jenn, for providing me with this practice in self-reflection early in the book release. It is a great way for me to practice what I "preach" and recognize some of my own inner strength that is currently hiding. High school. Yeah, I can do it. Bring it on!