If I Can’t Be a Rockstar …

When I was younger, I wanted to be a singer.  In fact, I was sure I would become a singer.  Like most young girls, my hairbrush was my favorite microphone AND then I started playing guitar.  My first taste of stardom besides playing and singing in front of my parent’s friends in our family room was at camp, Chippewa Ranch Camp, a Wisconsin Camp for bratty spoiled girls from the North Shore.  Yes, judgmental, I know and don’t care, especially because someone laced my shampoo with Sun-In, a 70s spray-on product that was supposed to give you just a “kiss” of blonde as if the big ole sun herself had done it however that fake “kiss” gave me more like a “slap” of brassy, copper kettle color hair.

This was at a very vulnerable age as in PUBERTY and all the accouterments that go with it. That being said, my undeniable musical talents catapulted me into temporary popularity, for at least 3-5 minutes, the length of your average 70’s song, I was positioned as the lead guitarist and singer for our cabin’s act at the mid-summer talent show.  I led my cabin mates in a balls-out rockin’ song that only I could strum on a 6-string nylon acoustic guitar to the theme from “Welcome Back Kotter.”  “Well, we tease him a lot cause we got him on the spot, welcome back.  Welcome Back, Welcome Back, Welcome Baaaaaak…infinity”.  Riveting!

Here is an excerpt from the Chippewa Ranch Camp website.  My comments are in parentheses:

We believe that at Chippewa, each camper will find the opportunity to see her own strengths and find a greater sense of self through community living (Bullshit). We realize that not every child is an athlete, or a dancer, or a horseback rider… and that’s the true goal of Chippewa: to let every camper find her niche in a low pressure but encouraging atmosphere (Bullshit).

Here is how I would write the truth as I saw it from my younger eyes:

We believe that at Chippewa, some campers will find the opportunity to see her own lack of strength and find a greater sense of insecurity through living with a bunch of mean-spirited bullies!!!

Man, that puberty is season is a hard one!  I went from being moderately popular, defined by being invited to most, not all bar mitzvahs and some, not all of the popular girl’s “boy-girl” parties to being shunned, teased and slightly suicidal as evidenced by my taking 3 aspirin instead of 2 with the hopes it would end it all!

I bet you are thinking, “Wow!  That’s serious!  3 Aspirin?  Suicidal thinking at such a young age?  Poor little Shelley.  This just can’t be.”

Yes, it could and now I’ll give you the back-story.  So when I was in 7th grade at age 12 or 13, I was abnormally obsessed with having my period and “developing”. I was like a real-life “Are you there God?  It’s me, Margaret.”  I was fascinated by the big and small breast growth of my 7th-grade peers and could not wait to start my period and spout some boobs.  Holy Hormones! I know you are thinking…Oh never mind.  I don’t care what you’re thinking, it’s my true story of what happened so go think what you want or write a weird comment.  I was so fixated I started filling out a little notebook along with a friend who shall remain nameless.  (Rhymes with “Bobbin”) I referred to this notebook as the “People Book” and in it I drew pictures of my 7th-grade female peers with their growing buds with a “Y” or “N” indicating if they had begun menses, a fancy word learned during a filmstrip.  How I knew for sure? I have no idea.

One day we were in music class.  My favorite class because as you now know, I wanted to be a singer.  Sometimes we would sing in front of the class. I belted out solos like “Send In the Clowns” or “Tomorrow” from Annie.  Sometimes we would break out into groups.  Upon returning from a group one day, I discovered someone found the “People Book”.   This was the beginning of the end of my moderate popularity.  From then on I was teased incessantly however; his was not yet the 3 aspirin episode, it gets much worse.

Unpopular me was invited along with a popular girl to a popular boy’s house.  I didn’t think to question why. Popular boy’s parents weren’t home so it was 2 popular boys, a popular girl and me.  Popular boys escort each of to a different room in the unsupervised house.  Being unpopular me with some daddy issues, while I didn’t go “All The Way”, I did a little more with this popular boy than was appropriate.  Next thing you know, popular boy opens the blinds to reveal a bunch of kids from school standing outside laughing.  It was a set-up.

The next school day when I opened my locker, what seemed like hundreds of pieces of paper came spilling out of my locker with words scrawled on them including “Tool”, “Whore” and “Slut”.  I was 13.

Any after school special, those crises derailed my music career, that and my family moved to the city. I went to a private school lacking the infrastructure to support a true music curriculum.  My school did, however, support teenage smoking by supplying a student smoking lounge.  In many ways, it was a blessing.  I was no longer bullied and I fit in with the rest of my schoolmates with the common denominators of sex, drugs, cigarettes and rock and roll.  Unlike public school where my mother had me tested for a learning disability because I was so traumatized, I couldn’t focus, I got good grades and graduated 3rd in my class.  Subsequently, the #1 kid in the class died tragically in a lawnmower accident so I guess for all intent and purposes, I can say I am #2 in my class.

The point of this story, and there is a point is that I am a singer, maybe not a Rock Star but a singer of songs unsung.  I sing my songs in the form of writing. I write in my own authentic voice and just as you can hear a guitar lick and identify the guitar player, my hope is that my own writing voice is uniquely identifiable.

I write because I have to like a singer who has to sing or a musician who has to make music.  I write not so much as to have people read my writing, I write to connect, to engage, to feel less alone and allow others to feel related to, to laugh, to cry, to identify within themselves similar feelings and to evoke a memory.

I used to think my journey was so unique but it’s not and for that I am grateful.

If I can’t be a Rockstar, then I will be a Write Star even if in my own eyes.

~From the “Weird Girl” archives Circa 2014


Shelley Brown
Shelley Brown
I’m Shelley Brown, A "Type A" Meditator. I spent 25 years in corporate sales, climbing the ladder and making great money, all while stress slowly consumed me. Then, after a particularly difficult time, I decided it was enough. So I learned how to address my stress. Then, I became better at my job AND my life. Today I teach sales leaders and their teams how to mitigate stress so they can be human beings at work and win more deals. And, BONUS! I help teams cultivate a sales culture that drives continual success. I’m not your typical corporate mindfulness trainer. In fact, I’m probably a lot like you.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. Your story was so needed at the end of the day, thank you. I laughed out loud at your parenthetic comments to the excerpt from the Chippewa Ranch Camp website. Someday I will have to write the guys version of breasts and menses. Maybe Tom will collaborate with me.

    Where on the North Shore?

    Keep writing, you writestar!

  2. You ARE a write-star, Shelley! Oh my gosh, I want to strangle those kids… I think we inhabited the same skin at camp. This was just so wonderful. I’m now really pissed off that I didn’t get to go to NLV (this comes in waves). Hugs to you! No matter what has happened, you ROCK!

  3. Hi Shelley,
    Thank you for sharing this! What a fantastic story you weave with humor and grace. I understand being bullied as I was at times for my short stature, but not like this. As a child of the seventies, I recognize some of your references. I am pleased to see that your grit prevailed, and look at you now. As others have stated, you are a ”Writing Rock Star.”
    I look forward to more of your articles. Feel free to tag me. Again, this is just amazing and a tribute to the most essential ingredient of tenacity!💖

    • Darlene, thank you so very much. I love your writing and certainly appreciate your generous sentiments. It’s bittersweet that you can relate to the story. bittter for the bullying and sweet for the 70’s references ❤️. Thank you so much for reading and commenting

  4. You ARE a Write Star, Shelley Brown, it’s how we met and why we stay so connected. And by the way, I was also pretty obsessed with “when will I get my period? Why am I the last of my friends? Where the hell are my breasts?”

    • Ha!! “Where the hell are my breasts?” Thank you for being you and how your relate to this story. I’ll have to find the story I wrote, “Dear Judy Blume, it’s Shelley. How the hell did you forget to write the sequel?” So grateful you found your breasts we found our friendship.

  5. But, and I know that I will not be the only one to say this – you are a rockstar. I’ve had the distinct pleasure and joy to meet you in person, and if anyone radiates rockstar more than you… I need proof. Yes, also let me say that you equal Sarah Elkins in the rockstar quotientness… (I love making up new words… language can be such a limiting thing, if we allow it to be).

    And that your camp experience was in Wisconsin – now that would be a shining moment for me, except that your experience was suckful, and for that I feel shame and disgust. I had a camp experience as well, in the summer betwixt my junior and senior years of high school, and though it had it’s negative moments, I kind of found my voice as a writer that summer, as I was lonely and felt a bit out of sorts, so I took to writing letters almost every day, and I learned how to frame and shape thoughts and I established connections that remain to this day.

    I just posted something the other day that your siren song “Welcome Back, Kotter” was the number one song the week that I turned 18. I laughed out loud when I read that you were belting it out that summer of your discontent. So much of your story was moving and poignant and painful… and to think that the currency of so many teen years is making other people feel like dirt and wounding in ways that echo down through the decades. It says so much about you that you have more than triumphed and all that you are now is such a joy to so many of us. Rock on, Shelley, I loved this story, and will forever have you enshrined in my Rockstar Hall of Fame.

    • Tears…Tom, I wanted to post something that had nothing to do with what’s going on in the world. I chose this story this morning not only because it’s one of my favorites but because I saw your post on Facebook yesterday about the “Welcome Back” song. I went ahead and sent it to Dennis to publish along with an apology due to feeling guilty about not engaging with many of the recent publications having to do with what’s going on and instead preferring to roll it “old-school” writing letters, making collage art, silly videos, one on one phone calls and singing along to songs on YouTube.

      So many of our “stories” are poignant and painful and mine continued to unfold that way for many decades. Like you, they have served to help me find my writing voice.

      I’m truly grateful for the stories we get to share because the gift of relatedly is so precious.

      Instead of moments of joy like, when I voracioulsy welcomed back Kotter, I now gratefully, expereince a life being the woman who is more like the little girl’s moments.

      Sharing any space with Sarah Elkins is an honor and when you add music to that, What the WOW! Love made up words and quotentiness and suckful are excellent. I thought I made up a word two weeks ago and realized it was already in use, creactive…

      Your sentiments bring such a beautifully deep visceral response expanding my heart & bringing tears of gratitude to my eyes. I’m so happy you read this story and enveloped me with such gracious and generous sentiments. That’s who you are. You are in my Rockstar Human Hall of Fame.

      Thank you Friend!

    • Larry, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment. One of my daily intentions is to watch a music video with lyrics on YouTuve of a song I love while singing along…guess whar song I’ll be singing?