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high school

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You're Gonna Hear Me Roar

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc
photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

Year ten formals are a dress rehearsal for year twelve formals, I think we can all agree on that.

The year ten formal (or 'prom' for my #murica friends) is a time for girls to wear dresses that will later be shown at their 21st party, in the “remember-that-one-time-you-actually-wore-this” category (yes, there’s a whole category for that). It’s a time when your friends put in $10.50 each, so you can hire a limousine that looks like it came straight from Austin Powers. It’s a time when boys give girls floral corsages, and the girls actually wear them. It’s a time to awkwardly dance with your date, while avoiding all eye contact, but managing to step on their toes every three steps.It’s the first time you see your teacher’s dance, and the first time you wish you never had to see your teachers dance.

I remember my year ten formal, and to my delight/horror, it included all of the above experiences. My most vivid formal memory? My dress. It was exceptional, in the worst possible way, and yes, it was shown at my 21st.

It is difficult for me to convey in words just how spectacular this dress was, but for you, I will try (you’re welcome). Imagine a dressmaker taking Bindi Irwin, 1995 (the entire year of fashion), a family of leopards and Nikki Webster (Strawberry Kisses era) and putting them into one magical dress. That was my year ten formal dress.

Let’s just say it didn’t exactly compliment my awkward, teenage figure. The dress finished at my shins (flattering, I know) in a handkerchief style, like leopards had actually attacked me.

I looked like Jane of the Jungle, without my Tarzan, or any hand-eye coordination.

Go with the leopard print, she said. Everyone will love it, she said.

Three weeks prior to my formal, my sister and I were standing in the fitting-room of a major department store in the city; she had taken me out to play the role of “big sister” in search for the dress that would ensure my popularity in senior school. The pressure was on. It had to be perfect. It had to be brave but beautiful. I was stressing and had even had nightmares of turning up in the same dress as another classmate (hopefully a girl)… aka, social suicide.

I had tried on countless dresses and found nothing in the category of brave or beautiful… until these two dresses. They were now hanging up in front of us. The first option was a beautiful, electric blue dress that was very classic, very pretty, very boring. The second choice? One big, bold, brave statement of leopard print.

My sister clearly loved the leopard print dress, and went into sales-pitch mode:

“If you don’t want to be brave, go with the blue one. It’s pretty, I guess, but no one will remember you…”

I want to be brave! I want to be remembered!

“…Go with the leopard print dress, and no one will forget you…”

I don’t want to be forgotten!

“…The blue is safe, the leopard print is a statement.”

I love statements!

I picked up the brave dress (also known as “Jane of the Jungle”) and walked out of the change-room like I had just received the Nobel Peace Prize for bravest year ten girl, ever to live. That’s a valid category, right?

My poor date, Blake. All the boys had asked their dates what colour their dresses were so they could buy her a matching corsage as a gift. When it got to my turn it was clear Blake immediately regretted asking me to formal. The other guys got “pink” or “blue” or “red.” Not Blake. He made his mum go searching florists around the city just to find a corsage that matched the description, “leopard print.” The result? Orange. Crazy hair, crazy dress, and orange flowers stuck on my wrist. I was definitely a sight to be… uhh…  Remembered.

The formal came and went. But it will never be forgotten.

It took about two years for me to be able to look back, to realize and to admit how crazy I looked. But once I realized, I regretted.

In my search to be brave, I forgot how to be beautiful.

To this day I still get tagged in social media posts and receive texts from my friends whenever they see leopard print anything. For so long I didn’t wear leopard print, it was too traumatic. It was only a little while ago I plucked up the courage to admit it, to use the L word.

I actually love leopard print.

These days I wear it all the time, in moderation of course. But hey, year ten formals are a dress rehearsal. I learned my lesson and stuck to classic instead of brave at my year twelve formal.

So what did I learn? Opinions are great, but ultimately we are the ones who wear our decisions. Be careful who you listen to.

Disclaimer: As a response to this blog, my sister would like to be put on the record as saying, “the leopard print dress was awesome, the rest of Elyse’s class wasn’t cool enough to get it yet.”

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If At First You Don't Succeed... Jump!

the-rock-2.jpg

Have you ever failed at something you really wanted to do well? Have you ever wanted to overcome a fear, but run away scared?

I was on a school excursion in the seventh grade. We had only been in high school for a month and my school decided to take our grade to a water park so we could bond. Australian schools rock.

The hype leading up to the excursion was centered around one thing – jumping off THE ROCK. I quickly realized if I wanted any kind of social status I was going to have to jump off Death Rock (I renamed it).

Confession: I have a small/massive fear of heights. Call me crazy, but the idea of plummeting towards the earth from a great distance doesn’t sound like my idea of fun. Unfortunately, starting high school meant that these kinds of core beliefs were irrelevant if I wanted friends.

The day came. I had my bikini ready and a false sense of security. Not to get graphic but a bikini probably wasn’t the best choice of swimwear for an awkwardly chubby teenager like me. Enough said.

As we walked out of the change rooms, there she was. She was staring down at me and I was staring up at her. She was unyielding, and tall, and solid rock… Obviously.

She was your worst nightmare, in rock form.

We made our way to the top with the girls giggling; seemingly unaware we were all about to plummet to our death. I wondered whether it would be seen as uncool for me to call my mum one last time to tell her I loved her and was leaving everything to her in my will. I decided against it.

We arrived at the top and, like the brave teenager I was, I pardoned myself every time I got to the front of the line. After as much procrastination as I could manage (there was now no one left to jump but me), it was time.

I walked to the jump line and did the one thing everyone says not to do, the worst thing possible. I looked down. I know, I’m sorry.

The jump was 5 metres (16.5 feet) high, but to me it may as well have been 5,000 metres. To make matters worse, I realised my entire class was on the ground staring up at me. Any courage or bravery I thought I had vanished quicker than I could say, “I don’t want to die today, thanks.”

I stared down and felt the eyes of everyone burning straight back at me. After about half an hour of practice runs, false starts and pitiful tears, I gave in to my fears.

A crying, shaking mess, I did the walk of shame back down the hill. I was so embarrassed and could feel the rejection from my friends. I was the only girl that didn’t jump. I was a failure.

Roll the tape forward seven years.

I had finished school (thank you Lord) and was on staff at our church. Dad (aka my boss-man) decided to take our staff to a water park for our annual church staff Christmas party. Can you guess which water park he picked? You guessed it – even if you didn’t, we can pretend you did… but seriously if you couldn’t guess, you should work on those skills.

Realising I would be at the very same water park that had caused so much anxiety years earlier, I told myself I would be fine. Years had passed and I was a “grown up” now. Right? Wrong.

We arrived for our Christmas party and sure enough, she was still there. Staring at me as aggressively as she had seven years earlier. The memories from that day flooded back, and I found myself, once again, a shaking mess.

As I walked up to the top of the rock, my experience can only be described by quoting a poet:

Palms were sweaty, Knees weak, arms were heavy I was nervous, but on the surface I looked calm and ready. The whole crowd grows so loud Snap back to reality Oh there goes gravity!

Sure I forgot everything the lifesaver said and so my arms flung up and slammed onto the water, leaving a nice bruise, but I had done it. I had conquered her. Death Rock, more like Slightly Bruised But Alive Rock!

Just call me Sir Edmund Hilary (or Eminem). Sir Edmund Hilary was the first man to conquer Mount Everest. He didn’t do it on his first go, but that didn’t stop him. After a failed attempt he looked up at the mountain and said,

“Mount Everest, you beat me the first time, but I’ll beat you the next time. You’ve grown all you are going to grow, but I’m still growing!”

Now, apart from the awkward silence afterward because he was speaking to a mountain, which obviously was incapable of a response, what a cool thing to say! Here’s a guy who faced his fears, more than once.

What’s your Death Rock? We’ve all been there. We’ve all tried something and failed. We’ve all made up excuses for that failure.

We’ve all wished that, instead of making up excuses, we could just confess, “I was just too scared.”

I know that feeling. But I also know it’s not over.

If you have tried something and failed, well done. Why? Because there are people out there who haven’t even tried. There are people who prefer to criticize rather than give life a shot. I feel sorry for those people.

Life is a journey, so learn from the past and move forward to victory. If you have fallen down, get back up, dust yourself off, and keep moving. One step forward is one step closer to your finish line.

One step forward is better than standing still.

Whatever you’re facing right now, you can do it. You have the creator of the world on your side, and He’ll give you everything you need.

Ps. You should totally read Hebrews 13:16.

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