Finding Place

Know when to sit quietly, and not make a sound. Know how to act. Know your place. Remember, girls don’t get dirty. They wear their hair in pigtails, and dress up in patent leather shoes for Sunday dinner. They say please, and thank you, and always smile. Girls are quiet, and only speak when spoken to. They are agreeable, and are more concerned with others feelings than their own.

These thoughts, these words, they were drummed into my psyche from a very young age by family members, teachers, neighbors, other adults who seemed to feel a young girl’s place was defined from the moment she was born.

As a child, growing up in the 70’s, that’s what it meant to be a girl, at least in some people’s eyes. I guess I never really fit in then. I ran through mud puddles, barefoot. I picked up garter snakes, and let them slither across my hands. I held toads and caught fireflies. I had grass- stained knees and wind-blown hair. I’d rather be outside riding my bicycle or running through the woods behind our house than dressing up or putting on makeup. Sure, I had Barbie dolls, and stuffed animals, but they rode around in my brother’s Tonka trucks over dirt hills and gravel driveways, they were crammed into pants pockets while I ran the country roads, and climbed trees. And still, I was asked, “Wouldn’t you like to try on this adorable dress”, or  “Are you sure you want to go play by yourself, in the woods?” No, I didn’t want to try on a dress, and yes, I most certainly wanted to play by myself. I mean, that’s where my imagination soared, where I felt free. Most times my no’s were were met with frowns or sighs. I was a girl after all, made of sugar and spice and everything nice. But, I didn’t care.

I liked who I was, and I loved all my outdoor world had to offer me. And, this love, it followed me as I grew.

Still, there were those who thought maybe I acted too much like a tomboy, and their words, they began to pierce my armour of self-esteem and confidence. Maybe they were right. Maybe I was destined to be the girl they insisted upon. And slowly, I began to change. I wore frilly dresses and painted my nails. I spent time with other girls at parties, fixing one another’s hair, covering my eyelashes in mascara, and my cheeks in blush. It wasn’t so bad really. I felt a sense of belonging when I could share in commonality. At night though, lying awake with summer drifting in through the open window of my room, I felt a twinge of regret. A longing to sit under the maple tree in the backyard, and watch the stars appear, pinholes of light in a blackened sky.

Why couldn’t I have both? I could love the outdoors still, revel in its magic even while I wore ribbons in my hair or pierced my ears. This wouldn’t change my heart or my character. I could still be me.

And, even if this meant saying no to some things and yes to others, ultimately I was the creator of my world. I got to choose how I weaved and intertwined nature into my life.

The thought of choosing between what seemed to be two completely different worlds was not really choosing at all. It was a blending of all parts of me into one whole being. I could love the outdoors no matter what I looked like, dressed up or dressed down. Hair done up or tucked behind my ears, perfected makeup or a dirt smeared face, it made no difference. I could always  just be me, through and through; a wild girl with a sense of place and a love for the earth.

This story was written by Jessica Hubbord who is an adventurer and contributor for Hike Like a Woman. You can read more from Jessica on her personal blog: An Average Adventurer.