It was the last week in August, 1977 and I was just about to start 5th grade. I was both scared and excited. Middle School! I would have different subjects and different teachers. I would get my first locker! As I sat on the dock at my Grandmother’s cabin in Maine, thoughts of the upcoming school year swirled in my head. I pictured standing outside class, chatting with my friends, laughing, and excitedly talking about our weekend plans. After all, we weren’t babies anymore. Suddenly I heard my Grandmother call out to me. “Carol, I have something for you.” When your Grandmother announces a gift, you make tracks.
They had a patchwork design of all different colors—blue, red, orange, pink… Grandma had bought a navy blue top to go with the pants.
I ran up the cabin stairs. Grandma was standing on the screened-in porch. There was a white bag on the table. “I picked up an outfit for you for school.” I opened the bag and saw the prettiest pair of pants I had ever seen. They had a patchwork design of all different colors—blue, red, orange, pink… Grandma had bought a navy blue top to go with the pants. I thanked her, gave her a quick hug, and ran into my room to try them on. I loved them. I wore them to the family campfire that night, careful not to spill s’mores on them. I had already decided that I would wear them during the first week of school. I felt certain that nobody else would have pants THIS cool.
When I think back to that first week of school, I don’t remember much. But I do remember very vividly what happened the day I wore my beloved patchwork pants. We had gym that day and because it was September, the weather was still nice and we played outside. The 5th and 6th graders didn’t have to change for gym and I was a little nervous about getting my pants dirty. I don’t remember what we played. Kickball maybe? Soon the teacher told us to line up to go back inside. We all dutifully lined up and started walking towards the school. As we walked, we had to pass another group of kids having their gym class. They were 7th graders and they were playing softball. Somehow, we all instinctively knew not to make eye contact for fear of being teased. We passed, heads down.
Just when I thought the coast was clear, one of the 7th-grade girls yelled at me as I passed by, “Nice pants!!” A few of her friends started to laugh. A few of my classmates turned to look at me. Nobody said anything. My cheeks literally burned and I held back tears. When I got home, I took off those pants, threw them in a bag, and stuffed them deep into the trash, so that no one would notice. My beautiful pants, which mere hours ago had made me so happy, because they were pretty and colorful and DIFFERENT, were now something I was so ashamed of that I never wanted to see them again. I felt a mix of shame for not standing up for myself and embarrassment for not knowing that I should be wearing Levi’s instead of patchwork pants.
I have thought of that day and those pants many times over the years.
It was the first time I betrayed myself and it had a lasting effect on me. It took time and experience to gain the confidence and wisdom not to care what people thought of me.
It took time to trust that, if I loved something, it didn’t matter if no one else did. Feeling comfortable in your skin is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Invest in yourself. Whether it’s through classes, coaching, monthly massages, working out—whatever makes you feel confident, radiant, and alive—do it. Don’t let the naysayers get you down or cause you to question yourself. Don your version of patchwork pants and live.