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Charlotte talks about the ‘c’ word…Cadets…and how this taught her to have the confidence to embrace her achievements and be proud of who she is.
As our prefect duties start to wrap up, I am the last prefect you will hear from about our prefect initiative, ‘Perfectly Imperfect’, which was harder than I thought… just ask my teachers and classmates who I’ve bugged about my ideas recently!
So I started thinking, what does being ‘perfect’ actually mean? When I turned to Google, it provided me with some stellar definitions. Namely, Ja’mie’s understanding of the term ‘Quiche’ and Gretchen’s famous Mean Girls’ label, ‘That’s so fetch’. Seeing these, I thought well, I guess I don’t have to worry about these pop culture influences as I feel I have a pretty good understanding of the unrealistic expectations they create…and that their definition of perfection is essentially ridiculous! However, it got me thinking that I only really started to grasp what ‘perfectly imperfect’ means to me about half way through Year 11.
I was convinced that all it took to be ‘perfectly imperfect’ was simply being me and staying true to my authentic quirks. I thought if people don’t accept me for who I am then, oh well, so be it! However, I didn’t truly appreciate that sometimes it takes a bit more effort than just being you, in order to stay true to yourself. And the best way I can illustrate this is… yes, by talking about the ‘c’ word… Cadets! But please, hear me out as you may not have heard my side of the story.
For those of you who don’t know, I was humbled to be offered the position of leading the Shore Cadet Unit last year. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity, accepted the role and though great, let’s break some gender stereotypes and give the boys a run for their money! However, I soon realised I’d been quite naïve. And that it was not going to be quite so easy to just embrace the role like any of the 110 boys that had held this role before me.
Now, I do wish to strongly emphasise that the Shore and Wenona communities were very supportive of me taking on this role, and I received lots of congratulations and encouragement. However, my point here today is there was a minority that had a different opinion and wanted to share it with me. After being in the role for only a week, I had the pleasure of experiencing a parent who approached me to say, “Please don’t take this personally, but you are taking the role away from a boy”. Naturally, I was quite shocked and started to apologise and explain that it was never my intention. A few weeks later, yet again, I had the pleasure of a different parent suggesting, “Do you think that the only reason that you, as a girl, are in this role is because the schools probably had to enforce a quota?” For those of you who are unfamiliar with this term, a quota is when parties have to nominate or appoint a minimum number of females on a board of a company or in parliament for example. So this person was basically suggesting that the only reason I was given this position is because of my gender and that the school had been forced to give it to a girl.
Now this time, it really got to me and I didn’t apologise on behalf of the girls because aside from being shocked, I realised that there was nothing to apologise for. We were simply participating in a co-curricular activity that had previously been boys only. It really surprised me that such a misinformed patriarchal comment could even be made by an adult to a school child.
Now this little anecdote of mine was what made me realise that being authentic and true to yourself actually isn’t as easy as people make it out to be. Sometimes, you will be pushed back or put down or accused of something, but the key is sticking to what you believe in and what you like to do. It hit home that although staying authentic should be second nature, sometimes you will have to put in a bit more effort to do so.
So, I have come to define being ‘perfectly imperfect’ as being, ‘unapologetically me’. No, I don’t mean walking around with your nose in the air and being stubborn all the time, but instead, giving yourself the chance to be your truest self. It means not lowering your expectations, compromising yourself, pretending to be someone that you aren’t or apologising to satisfy others.
I had people ready and willing to point out how something that I thought was one of my biggest achievements could in fact be one of my biggest mistakes… and for a second I almost believed them. I thought the process of earning such a role would be the hardest part, but little did I know that my biggest challenge was yet to come.
Recently, when my cadet journey was wrapping up, one of the parents that I mentioned before actually came up to me after the Ceremonial Parade and I thought ‘Oh boy, here we go again a whole year later!’ But to my delight, they actually genuinely congratulated me on my work over the past year. I won’t go into detail, but essentially they said that their son had come home from camp and couldn’t stop raving about how much more enjoyable and challenging the Wenona girls had made this activity.
So I hope that by sharing my story, should you ever be in a similar position, that you will have the confidence to not let others distort or belittle your accomplishments and that instead, you will fully embrace your achievements and proudly be ‘unapologetically you’.