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On Fitting In vs. Belonging

“Well, I don’t know if I want to say that,” she says, watching me flat iron my hair and apply my BB cream. “Because the girls will laugh at me.”

I grit my teeth together and wait a moment before I respond. I want to respond with hateful comments. Real Mama Bear stuff about what I think about those girls. But that’s not helpful. Fighting mean with mean never seems to work out.

I wish this wasn’t still going on. But it is. The teacher knows about, and she’s doing her best. The three of us, Kate, me, and her teacher, had a sit-down conference about the goings on in the classroom. The teacher made it plain to Kate that she had her back. And I do, too.

But we can’t control them. And, sadly, this won’t be an isolated incident. She will meet mean girl after mean girl after mean girl for the rest of her life.

*

She doesn’t want to get out of bed. For the second day in a row. I pad into her dark room and sit on her bed. Smoothing back her hair from her forehead, I ask her what she’s thinking.

“Nothing,” she says. “I’m just tired.”

This, from the girl who once told me: I never need sleep because I’m never tired! This from the girl with limitless amounts of energy. This from the girl who ran all over the soccer field laughing last night at practice. This from the girl with a Tigger temperament?

I know what’s going on. I feel the anger welling up in my chest. I want to scream.

But I’m out of moves.

*

I pull the van up in the Kiss and Ride line. Sliding the gear shift into park, I turn around and coax her up. There are people behind us. But I don’t care. They can go around. She needs a few more minutes.

Her head hanging, she slides up and perches behind me.

Taking her cheeks in my hands, I lift her head up.

“Your name is Kate Susan Bagley, and no one is better than you are,” I say. She nods. But I’m unconvinced.

The van door slides shut. I roll the window down and call to her. She pauses by the window. “I love you. Stand tall!”

She nods. But I know my words fall flat. Tears sting my eyes as I roll the window up and watch her walk away.

*

I’m crying. And I’m okay with her seeing. Because I want her to know, she’s not alone. Mean girls exist at any age. Even 32.

I’m crying because an email exchange with someone I barely know stunk of mean girl undertones and hit my raw nerves. That exposed nerve that says you’ll never be good enough. It was my raw nerve that says you’re out of her league. That raw nerve that says how dare you think you could be as cool as her.

I’m honest with Kate. I tell her a mean girl hurt my feelings. Just like the girls at school, this mean girl (woman) made it clear she thinks she is better than me.

“But she’s not,” I tell Kate. “She’s just mean.”

*

I’m playing Taylor Swift’s “Mean” in the bathroom while I get ready. Kate’s standing next to me.

“Did you know Taylor Swift got picked on when she was a little girl?” I ask Kate. She shakes her head. “Well,” I say. “If Taylor Swift let all those mean girls get her down, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy her music. I’m so glad Taylor Swift didn’t let those mean girls get her down.”

“Yeah, me too,” she says. “I love Shake It Off!”

“Me, too!” I say.

*

I’ve tried to fit in almost all my life. I tried wearing what all the cool girls wore. I tried acting like how all the cool girls acted. I tried talking like them, walking like them. But still, they’d snicker as I walked past. Ignore me when I tried to engage with them.

I spent most of high school eating in the library or the journalism room. I spent a lot of my years at college, trying to fit in, and, after I failed, wandering around the U.Va. grounds with a heavy backpack and a heavier heart, spending hours alone in the library.

As an adult I tried to fit in online with girls I met on the Internet. I tried to fit in with mommy groups. I felt like I was back in high school. There were the Cool Girls. And there was Me.

A couple of years ago, I gave up on trying to make them like me. Sometimes I catch myself doing it. But, mostly, it was too much energy to try to fit in. Around this time, I organically met some new women. Women who didn’t care about how I was dressed (or how my children dressed), how many IG followers I had, how many podcast downloads I boosted, or how many Facebook likes I had.

I didn’t need to fit into anything. Because I just belonged.

*

I’m a nice girl.

Sometimes I want to be a mean girl. Sometimes I want to be catty. Sometimes I want to talk smack.

Because being a nice girl means sometimes you get hurt. And sometimes, you’re lonely.

But I’m okay with that. I don’t need to fit in. I want something more. I want to belong. And I’m going to keep being nice. No matter what. Because that’s who I am.

*

We’re driving to soccer practice, and we see a dad and a girl about Kate’s age on the sidewalk. The dad is holding a water bottle, and the girl is holding a soccer ball.

“Hey! That’s the new girl on my soccer team!” Kate shouts from the back seat. “I’m going to be nice to her because that’s part of my job, you know.”

“Oh?” I say.

“Yep. I like being nice.”

“Me, too,” I say.

Podcast #176 // Lisa Jo Baker on Never Unfriended

I’ve followed Lisa Jo Baker online for years, and a couple years ago I had the pleasure of seeing her speak. We both have three kids and a desire to write, so I feel connected to her and her story.

She’s on the podcast today chatting about her new book, Never Unfriended. I love this concept because it’s so easy to feel “unfriended” these days. I know I get caught up in likes and number of followers. And I hate it.

I loved this conversation we had about friendships, being a good friend, and why we treasure these female relationships.

To connect with other podcast listeners, I invite you to join my Facebook group, the Creative Colleagues Community.

Please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, and I’d love it if you’d take two minutes to rate and review the show.  Thank you!  I appreciate the support.

Following Around Old Ladies At Walgreens

I’m doing it again. I didn’t even know I was doing it. Until I was doing it. She moves at a glacier pace, and I creep along behind her, pushing my rickety, undersized shopping cart. I’m aware my kids are somewhere near, but I’m not really paying attention. Because I need to follow her.

She’s got that short-cropped platinum hair, and it is that hair that I see first and led me down this aisle. Whenever I see that type of hair, a shock of recognition jolts through my body. “It’s her!” I think. And then I know it’s not.

But I follow her anyway.

She pauses at the Revlon display. I grin because I was hoping she would. She gets real close, so she can read the lipstick labels. I sidle up next to her. She’s wearing one of those matching old lady track suits, just like Rosemary used to wear. She doesn’t look like her, not really, except for the track suit, and, of course, the hair.

But I don’t care.

“Hi!” I say. “That’s a great lipstick.”

She looks surprised, but she smiles at me. We chat briefly. I help her read the name on the small-print labels. She puts that familiar green tube in her basket and shuffles away.

I repeat this behavior at Target, CVS, RiteAid. And at other places, too. Like Panera and Harris Teeter and Home Depot. I seek out these platinum haired little old ladies. Because, for an instant, I think it’s her. My grandma.

But it’s not. But I take any and all opportunity to talk to these little old ladies with platinum hair. They might be someone’s grandma. Or they might not.

But for a minute, I pretend they’re mine.

25% Friends // Episode #32 // The Embarrassing Moments Edition

Today is all about embarrassing moments!

+Physical vs. verbal emabarrassment

+Kim and Sarah each share embarrassing moments from their past.

+Would we tell other people if they had their fly down, spinach in their teeth, etc…

We started an IG account! Please, come say HI! We want to talk to you!

Please connect with us on our Facebook page! We love hearing from listeners. Ask us a question or leave us a comment about the show. And you can also email us at 25percentfriends@gmail.com

Also, we’d absolutely love it if you left us a review and rating on iTunes. It makes our day to see new reviews!

Podcast #175 // Tameka Allen on Being Bold and Ambitious

I had so much fun laughing along with mom and entrepreneur, Tameka Allen, on this episode. Tameka shares how she spent years working in the corporate world before transition to entrepreneurship. There were a lot of ups and downs along the way – divorce, self-doubt, etc… – but she didn’t give up.

Tameka opens up and shares her inspiring story of entrepreneurship – and not only that – she also shares the five reasons you’re struggling in your business – and how to break through those challenges.

I LOVED this talk with Tameka. She’s fun, relatable, and knowledgeable. To connect with her, join her FB group, and she’s also created a free gift for you!

And speaking of moms building a business and life they love…this episode is brought to you by the Moms Living a Life They Love Summit by Brook Jean, MA.

As a woman, I wanted it all…a happy family, work I was passionate about, success, and a ton of FUN along the way. And while I am proud of what I have accomplished and built, it hasn’t always been easy.

I remember being up against fear, guilt, insecurity, parenting challenges, logistics issues and so much more!

That’s exactly why I was thrilled when my friend, a fellow working Mommy, Brooke Jean, MA shared that she was hosting an interview series addressing these very topics, which she too personally faced amongst her journey of trying to have both, kids and a career.

The interview series is called: Moms Living a Life They LOVE: How to have a Flourishing Family, a Fulfilling Career, and Fun in the process!

I have a free access pass for you to join and hear these experts’ (successful working Mommys) amazing stories about creating the life they always wanted and sharing the unique challenges they faced, and HOW they overcame those obstacles.

You can register using this link > http://bit.ly/SarahBagley-MLALTL

You can watch from home or on the go… You don’t want to miss it.

This is for women who are Moms who have a dream, an idea, a skill they want to share with the world but are wondering just how to get it out there, or how they will get through the fear, guilt, worry etc.

This is also for women who are already in the working world but want to start or grow their family but are up against both internal and external blocks preventing them from moving forward.

This is for any woman who is thinking about their future and curious about what’s possible and how it might unfold.

Several women have come together to share REAL LIFE STORIES, TIPS and WISDOM that will make you laugh, energize and inspire you. You will gain insight, resources, and perhaps even the push you need to take action!

You can register using this link > http://bit.ly/SarahBagley-MLALTL

This is a great opportunity for anyone in my community who is a woman, a working professional, a Mom, or all of the above. (And of course, if you are a support partner for any of the above, you are welcome too!!)

I sure wish this was around when my journey began…

You can register for the Moms Living a Life They LOVE summit here > http://bit.ly/SarahBagley-MLALTL

Thank you, Brooke Jean, for including me!

To connect with other podcast listeners, I invite you to join my Facebook group, the Creative Colleagues Community.

Please subscribe to the podcast in iTunes, and I’d love it if you’d take two minutes to rate and review the show.  Thank you!  I appreciate the support.

From the Mouths of Babes // On Questioning and Worrying and Maybe It’s All Okay

“Mama?” Kate asks. “Is being a mom a hard job? Because you’re like a writer and a yoga teacher and work for Miss Jen and take care of three kids!”

Snapping open a garbage bag and leaning over the trash, I answer, “Yep, it is a hard job.”

Turning towards her, I give a wink and follow up. “But just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.”

But sometimes I’m concerned about what I’m showing her.

As many mothers who have gone before me have pondered, I myself often ponder: Am I doing the right thing?

Did I give the right answer? Say the right words? Give the correct response? And what about what I’m doing? Should I be working like this? More? Less? Differently?

I can play this game all day.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I’m putting her to bed after reading our new favorite series, the Ramona Quimby books. We love Ramona and her antics. I pull the covers up to her chin and hand her her favorite stuffed bear, the one her dad got her in London on a business trip.

As I lean over to kiss her cheek, she grabs hold of my face and says “I know, I can be an artist AND a mom. And when I need to work, my husband can pick up the kids.”

I freeze, and for a minute, I’m concerned. Have I planted worries in her head about how she will manage work and childcare? When Dan and I talk logistics over the dinner table, does she worry? Find this all concerning?

“Oh,” I say, as she rubs my cheek and gives me a big smile. “Yep!” she says. “Just like Daddy does.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s my sister’s birthday, and we’re eating grocery store cake loaded with sugary pink icing, and, of course, fights over who gets the frosting roses. Somehow we get on the topic of “passions.” Kate announces that Thomas’s passion is “to be annoying.”

We all laugh. And agree. And I say, “Kate, what’s my passion?”

Without a beat, without a moment’s hesitation, without a thought to consider the question.

“Family!” she says.

Maybe I’m not doing such a bad job after all.