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Defaulting to a 58 girl?

7 Comments 24 April 2010

I was working on my new dandy website when the call came.  She spoke in a very hushed tone and asked me to come right away.  I asked her what was wrong and she insisted that she could not explain or she would burst into tears, but that I must come quickly.  I frantically gathered my computer, my keys and sped the couple of miles to the Junior High School to rescue my daughter who in her fifteen years had very rarely needed my rescuing.  I knew it must be dire or she would not have called me.  My mind was racing and I simply could not imagine what could have happened to push her to such a point of despair.

I dutifully wrote her name, had her called and as I saw her tall, thin frame pass down the hall I shot past the lockers and caught-up with her.  As she turned to come towards me I was within inches and poised with the question, “What in the world happened?”  Her chest and neck began to splotch with the three shades of red that appear when she is upset and those huge, blue eyes of hers filled with tears as she said, “I failed my History test.”

Now, some of you may find this amusing, but before you do, there is a tremendous lesson to be learned, so hang in there with me.  You see, my daughter is a great student.  Not the kind of student that things come easily to, but a the kind of student who works hard, studies hard and pursues the things she loves.  She loves History.  She is not necessarily an Advanced studies girl, but she pressed me to let her take Advanced History and I let her because she assured me that she would work hard and do her best and show up.  She has done just that and she has pulled an A for most of the year.

That brings us to this point.  History is her thing, it is her passion.  So for her to go to class on this particular day and to get her test back from her teacher and for that test to be an “F” was mind-blowing, world-rocking and catastrophic.  However, this is where there is a paradaigm problem for my daughter.  My love of a child saw a 58 on her paper and took it in as reality.  She said to herself, you are a “58” girl, you are a failure, and fell into despair without question.

As we drove away from the Junior High I asked her if she had looked over the test.  She said that she was so upset that she had not even looked at the test.  She took it out, noticed that one of the four parts was completely missing.  She had not even turned one part in to her teacher.  Long story short, it was in her folder (it had been an open notes test) and the teacher told her that he had suspected that to be the case.  He graded the fourth part that afternoon and she actually made a 90 on the test.

My point?  My daughter defaulted to 58 when she is a 90!  She took a 58 on the chin without raising her voice to say, “hey, wait a minute, something is terribly wrong here, I am a 90-kind-of-a-girl in History, not a 58, what the hell is wrong here?”  Okay, she better not say hell, but you know what I mean!  She and I talked about it in length as we enjoyed a lovely lunch together after discovering the truth before returning to the Junior High.  I exhorted her that she is her only and best advocate in this world and she MUST learn to tell herself first that she is no “58” girl, and then learn to tell the world!

I have been reminding myself since that conversation that I myself am not a “58” girl either and I just wanted to take a moment to remind you too!  Most of us have had a multitude of voices telling us that we are “58” girls for a lifetime, but only we decide…I’m just sayin’!

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7 Comments so far

  1. Simple yet profound story I hope your daughter will carry with her- not to immediately allow ourselves to default to 58 without as much as a glance, knowing our real default is, in fact, much, much higher.
    Great post to share with others when words are tough… this one paints a picture

    • Jorja says:

      ridgely,
      working on the glitches with the twitter sign-in window, don’t know how to make it go away! thanks for stopping by and for your encouraging words. read your about ridgely page, sounds like a fantastic story. love to hear people’s stories. take care.

  2. amy says:

    jorja,
    i have spent the past few days soaking in this new blog of yours. it is such a gift to have some more jorja time!! this post so resonated with my heart (as really, all of them did.) thanks for taking a risk and putting yourself out here for all of us once more. love you!!

    • Jorja says:

      it really hit me that day, it was so surreal. she really had not taken even a millisecond to think…whoa! that’s bullshit, i don’t make 58s in this class! and it was like peering into her soul, such a moment. thanks for the encouragement!

  3. amy says:

    i realized you’ll have no idea who this is writing with just an amy. it’s amy miller sanders. 🙂

  4. Judy Helfand says:

    Hi Jorja,
    I stopped by again; I am trying to learn more about you and your new blog. So many interesting posts. I am, as someone said, trying to put together all the pieces of your story to get to know you. This event with your 15 year old daughter is remarkable for many reasons, but perhaps more because this happens every day to many young women. And sadly they accept the 58 and may not have a parent who will ask probing questions that will teach volumes.
    Just this week Chris Brogan tweeted about an article. I was curious so I read the article and responded to him by providing a link to a post I published last year about Lilly Ledbetter. I asked him a question and he RT it and of course the flood gates opensed.
    I am sharing this with you because I have a feeling that you will understand where I am coming from.
    I would love to know what you think of these two articles. The first is what Chris tweeted, the second one appeared the next day.
    Here are the links to the stories,
    When Female Networks Aren’t Enough http://s.hbr.org/9sdiX6
    A Toolkit for Women Seeking a Raise – http://nyti.ms/a1cXuU

    Finally, here is a link to the post I wrote a year ago, but now it inlcudes some new comments. It deals with the whole struggle of young women in the work force, you might enjoy the follow up comments: Thanking Lilly Ledbetter http://bit.ly/a9MgfU

    Good luck with all of this Jorja. You have a wonderful writing style.

    • Jorja says:

      Judy, i will read both and let you know my thoughts! i am very familiar with the lilly ledbetter story. look forward to conversing.


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“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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