Life Lessons in Girl Scouts

13 Life Lessons I Learned In 13 Years of Girl Scouting

Here's a little insight I've gained through six levels of endless fun and laughs with Troop #35246.

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Stick to what you love...

...even if it defies the status quo. I never understood why so many girls were ashamed to call themselves Girl Scouts until I realized that the term "Girl Scout" evoked the image of a six year old girl making friendship bracelets and singing campfire songs - and that's it. Being asked "aren't you a little old to be a Girl Scout?" a thousand times transformed my mission in the organization. Tired of being discouraged and insulted, I advocated for Girl Scouts on the local and national level. When classmates began telling me, "I wish I was still a Girl Scout!" (Yes, this really happened. A lot.) I knew I was doing something right. Be open with your experiences and passions.

Your mom is special

You're thinking, "Duh!" Well, this can't be emphasized enough. Back in 2005, a stranger randomly asked my mom if she wanted to be a Girl Scout leader. She said sure. The stranger became her co-leader and her daughter was my first friend in my new hometown. The rest is history. From magic tricks every meeting to science experiments and "The Night of A Thousand Badges", I so admire my mother's creative mind and ability to turn boring badge requirements into an exciting adventure. Her passion has never faded and her amazing ideas have never faltered. She was without a doubt the most important figure in my Girl Scout journey. In short - your mother is so incredibly invested in you and your future. Appreciate her. I'm not quite sure how else to say it.

Make solutions personal

As elements of the GS organization started to slip out of order, when new leaders were unable to find proper training, I watched my mom create a new role as mentor and personally help amateur leaders aspiring to lead new generations of girls. That's how she learned, so that's how she taught. I've learned that, when the system is broken, take matters into your own hands and work face-to-face for the best results.

Your boss is human

The CEO of my state council and I went from total strangers to close acquaintances, even friends. At a big convention last year, she had dinner with us, rode the bus with us for 10 hours and helped me present my amendment to the National Board. Becoming friends with a CEO, her personally inviting me to more events and writing me a heartfelt letter of recommendation for a competitive scholarship helped me to realize that your "boss" is, in fact - after all - a person.

Cookies aren't the answer to everything

For every box of cookies a Girl Scout sells, at least 75% of the profit goes to the local council, not the troop. Long hours spent selling cookies for a tiny profit margin were nothing compared to the money earning events we poured our hearts and souls into pulling off - from strategizing Father Daughter Dances with elaborate themes for hundreds of people, to planning badge-earning days for younger troops, we had to make sacrifices in the short term to build on progress in the long term. In short - cookies can't solve everything. Sometimes you gotta eat some vegetables.

Hold onto small, meaningful keepsakes

My beige vest is absolutely covered with pins, patches, badges and everything in between. Looking back on each little square, including my original pins from 2005, I'm reminded of how special physical keepsakes can be. A post-it with a sweet note from a friend, a photograph, a concert ticket - these will help bring back memories and flood your heart with nostalgia and gratitude, especially in times of trial. I recommend keeping a memory box, scrapbook or notebook to fill with all of your favorite memories.

You are someone's inspiration. Seriously!

Troops of little Daises, Brownies and Juniors looked up to me as an older Girl Scout and aspired to be like me. That freaks me out a little bit, I'll be honest. I'm not perfect - I can't even remember to eat breakfast in the morning - why would anyone want to be like me? Right?

I've learned to subdue voices like these. We all have human flaws and imperfections, that's to be expected. I believe that it's your experience, your worldly knowledge, that puts you on a pedestal in someone else's mind. That seven-year-old Brownie doesn't care about my Gold Award, she cares about the fun overnight that I experienced with my friends in fifth grade, when we rode horses and indulged in a glorious chocolate fountain. She is inspired by my experience, and me by default! So, share your experiences and try to be the best role model you can!

Never underestimate the power of the dynamic duo: food and music

Spaghetti sup 'n sings were one of the most fun ways to gather the local GS community and share songs together. Indoor picnics, camping under the stars, and singing songs with new friends at scouting overnights are some of my fondest memories as a younger Scout - not when I was trying to earn awards or volunteering as a National Delegate, but when I bonded with strangers over s'mores and repeat-after-me songs. The healing properties of a simple melody go beyond verbal expression. One of my most sweetest musical memories is my best friend singing the "Brownie Smile Song" to me in first grade, when I was crying. The melodious sweetness of "Day Is Done" combined with the scent of homemade pretzels will forever remind me of camp. That's just how it is.

If you have kids, support their passions

As middle and high schoolers, girls start to take on more sports and after-school clubs and activities - that's when Girl Scouts is often pushed to the side and dismissed as frivolous, immature or just unimportant. My younger sisters' troop dissolved when parents started pulling their children away from the group, without realizing what good friends and learners these girls are!! Her leader was all alone and tried to keep the troop together, but with no co-leader, the group was destined to fall apart. This saddened me deeply, to see that so many parents just didn't get it.

Prioritize hands-on experience

With the introduction of GS "journeys" and workbooks around 2011, work at our meetings became more boring and monotonous. It was the re-introduction of hands-on experiments, camping, service work and more that revitalized my interest in topics I'd never previously imagined. This firsthand experience is crucial to life - in your career and beyond. Try to take every single opportunity open to you. Internships, volunteer work, even just helping a neighbor - you never know what connections you'll make!

Remember your roots and embrace the past

When I went off to private high school in a different town and another troop member packed up for boarding school, meetings and trips with my childhood friends in my Girl Scout troop kept me tied to my hometown, old friends from public school, and even the elementary school where it all began! (We're "bridging" from Girl Scouts at our old playground this week!) In life, don't burn bridges. Keep your hometown in your heart and keep in contact with old friends to the best of your ability, every so often.

Keep your future in mind

My friends and my experiences are what have kept me in Girl Scouts for all these years, but the volunteer work I've been able to service through networking with other troop leaders are what truly prolonged the success of my Girl Scout experience. From earning my bronze, silver, and gold awards to helping out a younger troop whose leader I met while working the cash register at my grocery store job, I've learned that connections and accomplishments so important to have in your back pocket, and you should consider the affect these will have on your future. Take advantage of your successes.

You're allowed to have fun!

Girl Scouts never felt like work alongside my amazing leader, co-leader and best friends. I am endlessly grateful for the years of fun that have presented to me the most valuable opportunities imaginable. We've accomplished so much, and laughed through every second of it. From running around museums at midnight to playing "murder in the dark" for hours on end, to going on a cruise together, to experiencing sensory deprivation, the close bond I have with my seven sisters in scouting will truly never be broken. Life has its sorrows and its work, but my troop has taught me that every challenge can faced with determination and a few laughs.

I can't imagine my life without my seven best GS friends. My troop has been instrumental in my growth as a person. If you ever have a daughter and are passionate about empowering girls and women, please consider looking into Girl Scouts and becoming a Leader - whether you're a mom or a dad!

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