Life is Not a Checklist: What I Learned from Girl Scouts
By Yadira Noelle Harrison, Girl Scouts of Greater New York Leadership Advisory Board Member
Thinking back to my 16-year-old self, I can only marvel at how sure I was of the life plans I had written in my journal hidden in my desk. How each step of my life, starting with my college selection, had been thought out in detail and researched thoroughly. How perfect my life would be once I checked off each of the steps along the way – high school graduation, college, job, marriage, kids, etc. Is that not what we are taught? To create goals and then work tirelessly to cross them off our to-do list?
Nothing was wrong with this except that I figured out very quickly that life is not just a collection of steps, but takes place in the times between those check marks. It is the way one reacts to the highs and lows while on one’s life adventure that will give one the clarity, strength, and wisdom to determine the next steps. Of course, it feels great to look back today and see all those goals crossed off the list. But what I remember much more are the people, stories, and struggles it took to cross each of those tasks off the list.
Every Wednesday we met for our weekly Girl Scouts meeting, where we were taught the skills and values that help us become leaders who think critically and solve problems. What we learned there gave me the confidence to make the best choices and the conviction to remain optimistic no matter the assignment or endeavor. There were times when I wanted to quit the Girl Scouts because my friends thought it wasn’t so cool or when I got too busy with other activities – but I stayed the course, and I am glad of it now. Little did I realize that every meeting, every camping trip, every cookie sale taught me a new skill that I have applied ever since.
After I graduated from High School I was all set to go to my first choice college, but a financial hiccup meant that I had to defer for a year. I was heartbroken and disoriented – this had not been the plan. Moving out of my dorm room while everyone else was moving in was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But I recovered, and in the process had a rewarding experience during this time. I’ve come to believe that all things happen for a reason; now I realize that I was not ready to go off to school in New York; rather, I needed time for reflection and personal growth. Being derailed from my plan could have been a major turning point in my life – it could have caused me to give up on college altogether. But I prevailed, and a year later returned to my dream college with a new attitude; ready to meet new friends, learn new theories, and become a leader in campus activities. Without Girl Scouts, I am not sure I would have made it back to that college and be as successful as I am today.