I saw me.

Imagine, going to a place to see and meet ‘you’ about 15-18 years ago… Imagine what you would say and what you would think seeing yourself as your cute, messy and shy tenth grade self.  I got to experience that today… in a way.

Recently I was asked if Maddie’s Mark Foundation and Maddie’s Elephants could be the NYS Leadership Project for the 2014-2015  for FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America).  When I was involved it was called FHA (Future Homemakers of America), until we voted to change the name to more correctly represent the mission.  I couldn’t wait to share Maddie’s Mark with all of the teachers and leaders that I remember admiring and learning many skills from..  I felt honored and blessed, like a circle was complete.  I felt like all of the work and skills I learned and the time I spent were coming back to me, Maddie’s Mark and my girls.  I quickly agreed and shared with my team.  I packed up my Foundation stuff and Elephant materials, Amelia and Lucy and headed out on an adventure.  We zipped outta town… I was determined to share with my girls something that was really important to me and I feel helped me become the person and mom that I am…

We got to town, checked in and headed out to look for the conference center.  I saw my teacher from High School, Mrs. Thomas, and hugged her.  I couldn’t wait for her to tell me the plans and times… I was excited and anxious.  We got there in time to go to the park for dinner, a chicken BBQ.  The girls and I walked to the park and sat for dinner.  We were kind of by ourselves, since we got there after most had connected.  It didn’t take long to see and think about the way I was at that age.   I had a hard time gauging the teenagers ages, I am much better at young kids now and spotting an 8 year old as opposed to a 14 or 12 year old.  I guess I will know when I see and know more teens… I watched them interact and talk and eat and play… I saw them be confident and bold or shy and reserved.  I saw them dressed crazy and dressed conservatively.  At the end of dinner we watched them do a Group Activity- Lip Syncing.  I remember these team building activities, I remember me.  I was the girl who stood near the one who would sing loud, or dance well… I was do the minimum and try not to be heard.  I would attend these seesions on speaking, leadership skills, parliamentary procedure and others and write notes galore.  I would listen and take it in.  Then I would go back to my district or group and meet some new people, cringe at the team building techniques (for fear I would be terrible)… and stay shy (not quiet, but not confident).  I listened, I learned and I was too scared to practice what I learned.

Fast Forward to now… Imagine walking into a group full of teens, some of them just.like.you.were.  Imagine getting to say to them all that you have learned on the journey you have been gifted.  Imagine sharing the parts of you vulnerability and the skills you learned.  Imagine, maybe- just maybe, one of those girls might be just.like.me a long time ago and need to hear how these skills changed my today and my journey, and also how I wish I knew my worth back then.  I wish I knew more about the me that God made… how bold she was, how her voice meant something, how she was made for something different, how she would be gifted great and amazing and also faced with loss that is bigger than most can imagine.

What an awesome experience to get to see me, before I was this me, heck before I was a lot of me’s … I was excited and nervous to talk and share and help them set up and organize how the Project would work and what the goals would be.  I talked about Madeline and my history with FHA/FCCLA, I talked about the Foundation and Madeline’s illness… I talked about our Maddie’s Elephant’s and how important they are to me and the Foundation.  I told them how the skills I learned in FHA/FCCLA helped me to not only be the President of Maddie’s Mark, a good mom, sister, friend… and all that jazz… but also to move, live, breathe and survive the challenges I have had in this life.  I assured them that we will all have our challenges, blessings, opportunities and experiences in leadership- and that what they were doing today would really help in those things, all.of.those.things.  I told them about much of what I learned and how the skills helped me… and also how I wish when I was their age I knew I was made to be me.  I told them I wished I had the confidence then, that I had to knowledge then… and that they should love their voice, their bold, their different.  I had this chance to say to ‘me’ back then that this would be a great tool in life- but also that they should… get uncomfortable and know their voice matters.

I don’t regret things in this life.  I know that I am right where I am supposed to be.  I am where I am now because of a series of life events and choices that got me right here.  I am made for right now.  The skills I have now- people skills, leadership skills, organizational skills (though I am lacking) have been in me for a long time.  I am so glad that I have the bold to use them now…

Thank you Mrs. Thomas for the encouragement and support back then and now… Just as Mrs. Weiman helped me be confident to write and share, Mr Gaffney to love biology… you helped make me this very Erin…

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