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Goal: Live life like Pippi Långstrump. Or a wolf. Or both. Whatever. Be whoever you are.

Musings

Goal: Live life like Pippi Långstrump. Or a wolf. Or both. Whatever. Be whoever you are.

Megan Harrod

I am the sea and nobody owns me. ⚡️
— Pippi Longstocking

Remember Pippi Långstrump? For Americans, the name "Pippi Longstocking" may be more recognizable. According to Wikipedia...

Pippi is red-haired, freckled, unconventional and superhumanly strong – able to lift her horse one-handed. She is playful and unpredictable. She often makes fun of unreasonable adults, especially if they are pompous and condescending. Her anger comes out in extreme cases, such as when a man ill-treats his horse. Pippi, like Peter Pan, does not want to grow up. She is the daughter of a buccaneer captain and has adventure stories to tell about that too. Her four best friends are her horse and monkey, and the neighbours’ children, Tommy and Annika.

A couple of years ago a good friend (thanks, Tiitu) of mine told me I remind her of Pippi Longstocking, as she gifted me white long stockings with red and blue strips that she knit for a Christmas gift. To this day, I believe this to be the best compliment I’ve ever received.

You see, Pippi is not the norm. I'm not the norm either. I push. Sometimes I make people feel uncomfortable. I'm not a "yes gal." I'm more like a "why gal." Though it can sometimes be challenging to be this way in conventional environments, I'll never stop being this way. 

And so, when - as a blonde-haired, mid-thirties woman in this world - I run into situations where I'm expected to be less like Pippi and more like...say...little red riding hood, I'm in a little bit of a pickle. Have you watched Team USA gold medalist's Abby Wambach's Barnard commencement speech? If not, I'd recommend it. Got me all fired up last week. 

Abby Wambach's Barnard College Commencement Speech: "Barnard women, class of 2018, we are the wolves."

Like all little girls, I was taught to be grateful. I was taught to keep my head down, stay on the path, and get my job done. I was freaking ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’

The message is clear: Don’t be curious, don’t make trouble, don’t say too much, or bad things will happen. I stayed on the path out of fear—not of being eaten by a wolf—but of being cut, being benched, losing my paycheck. If I could go back and tell my younger self one thing, it would be this: ‘Abby, you were never Little Red Riding Hood, you were always the wolf.’
— Abby Wambach

Did you watch it? I know, I know...it's long...and your attention span is short. But give her a shot. I'm not going to let you continue until you do. 


Okay, back at it. So I've been feeling a little low lately. I've written about what it feels like to be a strong woman working in a sea of men before. This isn't the first time. If I approach someone without my positive, bubbly, personality...I'm a bitch. Rather than assertive, I'm aggressive. I'm combative. That's a shame. 

And then I go back to things like what Tiitu told me. Pippi is a hero. She doesn't let people get to her head. So, today, when I was at home with a migraine not feeling well, and being the sad version of Megan not many people see, I reminded myself that being a little odd is OK. Sticking up for myself is OK. Staying firm in my beliefs and moral standards is OK...and, in fact, an admirable trait. Saying "no" when everyone else says "yes" is OK. And being a strong woman is...not just OK, but fucking awesome.

I will never stop being like Pippi. 

And just when I'm feeling low, a little sunshine comes my way. Today, it came in the form of an email from my former ski coach, Mark Navin. It was a letter he wrote to the Director of Admissions in February of 2001, after I had found out I didn't get into St. Olaf: my first choice. You see, I applied early action rather than early decision, with University of Wisconsin-Madison as my other option. But, during the winter of 2001 - and more notably when they told me "NO" - I wanted in to St. Olaf. Rather than opening that admissions letter and walking away with my tail between my legs, I said "they can't tell me no...I belong there." So, I decided to appeal the decision.

Here's the note Mark, a St. Olaf and Stratton Mountain School alumnus, wrote on my behalf: 


Sara Kyle                                                                                            February 20, 2001
Director of Admissions
St. Olaf College
1520 St. Olaf Ave.
Northfield, MN  55057

Dear Sara,

Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me last week regarding Megan Harrod.  Megan has applied for and been denied admission to St. Olaf and I am happy to say that she is appealing the decision. 

My wife Erika (Heins) and I graduated from St. Olaf in 1995. We’ve known Megan since I started coaching the Alpine Valley Ski Team later in 1995.  It doesn’t surprise me that Megan has decided to make an appeal to the admissions department. She is a person of incredibly strong character and possesses a drive to succeed both in life and on the ski hill. I can honestly say that she has the spirit, enthusiasm, and passion of a St. Olaf Student.

One of the unfortunate aspects of alpine ski racing is that it requires high school students to miss a substantial amount of school. During the winter months, Megan typically practices two to three nights per week, travels every Thursday or Friday to the upper peninsula of Michigan or to Minnesota, races during the weekend, and returns to class on Monday morning. As a coach, I have always stressed that school must come before skiing and I believe that Megan has developed a good balance between the two, just as she would be expected to do at St. Olaf.

Prior to each season I ask all of our team members to set short and long term goals. In each of the previous four years, Megan has attained or surpassed the goals she set for herself. This fall, her long term goal was to gain acceptance to St. Olaf, earn a degree in English, and become a Journalist. I know that Megan can succeed at St. Olaf, but more importantly, she knows it. I ask that you please reconsider your decision. You will not be disappointed.

Sincerely,

Mark Navin
Corporate Account Manager


Guess what?! I was a student-athlete who graduated Cum Laude. I was team captain for three seasons and an all-American skier my last season with the team. I wrote for the newspaper. I studied abroad.

He's right. They weren't disappointed. 

After all, how many of their alumni have gone to the Olympics?! How many of them have rollerbladed on a stage in front of 6,000 screaming Austrian fans?! Or wormed on stage at the Austria House in South Korea?

Not many. None? 

Never, ever, ever let anyone tell you you're not valuable. Never let them tell you "no." Push for what you believe...and then keep pushing. And, if you need to, tell them "GIVE ME THE EFFING BALL!!" Make them listen. It's not solely a matter of gender. It's a matter of respect for another human.

So when they tell you to be less loud, and less curious, and all they want is for you to be compliant, to be less YOU...to be a bit more like little red riding hood - you know what you tell yourself? NO. Be yourself. If you're the wolf, be the wolf. If you're Pippi, be Pippi. Or both. And be proud of who you are, because you and your talents are a gift to this world.

And when no one else believes in you, believe in yourself. Because you can do it. And you will do it.