Sunday, 27 July 2014

Girl Guide Promise and Law: Thinking about courage, and strength for Guides Own.

I've made my Girl Guide Promise twice, once as a Brownie and once as an adult.

The Promise is:
I promise that I will do my best
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve my community and Australia
And live by the Guide Law

The Law is:
As a Guide I will strive to:
  • Respect myself and others
  • Be considerate, honest and trustworthy
  • Be friendly to others
  • Make choices for a better world
  • Use my time and abilities wisely
  • Be thoughtful and optimistic
  • Live with courage and strength
This last year or so, two things have really stood out for me: being true to myself and to live with courage and strength.

To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
Often we tell the girls that this is thinking about things using your own mind and not someone else's, as in, if Jenny told you to jump off a bridge, would you?

As an adult though, I have thought about this quite a bit. We live in a world where social networking plays a huge role in how we interact with one another. How easy it is to censor things - not just things that don't need to be shared, but things that should, and we can't. In 2010 I wrote a statement about faith. It stated a whole bunch of things I did and didn't believe in, many of them to do with expectations and behaviour rather than my own beliefs about the man and mission of Christ. Since then though, I have really battled with stating how I believe. Do I support gay marriage? Yes. Do I declare such things during debates - not usually. Do I believe in tithing? Not really, it is OT, but then again, someone has to pay the salaries of ministers across the denomination. Then again, they are not really things that touch my world enough to make them too relevant. Interpretation of scripture and applying it to a modern context is hard, and too many people fool themselves in thinking it is easy.

Where am I going with this?
Oh yeah.

I'm preparing for the eisteddfods again, for the first time since I was 15. I lost the aggregate to Leah Kelly by a second placing during the final recital section. I still remember that entire evening, and the days after it far too well. It was the last time I could compete and I didn't win by two measly points. Gran still thinks the adjudicator was bent because Leah wore a swimsuit for her Character Recital, and let's face it, I would never do that in my life, and anyway we all know who should have won.

Why did I give it up though? I went on to finish my CSCA, Certificate in Speech and Communication, which is a now defunct qualification from AMEB. I did SACE Drama and I really hated it. I really wanted to quit but my parents reminded me that I had never quit anything in my life, and anyway it wasn't an option.

Regrets everyone has about that miserable time of my life: countless. So many times Mum has said that she wishes they had let me pull out of the whole thing. It was really sad though. I have a lot of first loves, and for me Drama was really the first thing I loved and had some kind of talent in. I just had to learn the hard way that ensemble work was not for me. For the last few years I have toyed with the idea of Speech and Drama again, and finally bit the bullet in May when I enrolled in my two exams and entered the eisteddfod. And now the big day is five sleeps away and I'm incredibly cool, calm and completely nervous. I wonder sometimes whether I was being true to myself by stopping all the S&D stuff when I was younger. I think I was. Going through the motions, especially in an artistic form such as Drama, is never a good thing.

To live with courage and strength
Often we talk about taking on challenges and being brave when we discuss this part of the Law. To me, living with courage and strength is not a new concept, but it is also not one I am always good at.
 Sometimes I do take the easy road, avoid conflict, avoid people in general, whatever.

I asked Steve on Friday about 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going' and what it really means. In my life, it had always meant that the "tough" ones cleared out and let everyone else get on with the job. I have almost always been the last one to bail from bad situations. Bad relationships, bad jobs, bad volunteer opportunities, toxic friends, awkward social situations. Sometimes that seems like I am not strong and certainly not courageous. After all, someone who was tough would have jumped ship a long time ago. But, and this is a huge but, I am always optimistic. I always hope, and occasionally, advocate for change. Sometimes I expect things to get better and sometimes I do nothing and, for some reason, think someone else will fix the problem. Part of this is to do with the 'but you never quit anything' mentality I talked about before. In this context, the tough ones clear out first. as they should. I have countless stories of this, and I can tell you plenty of reasons why things didn't work out - unrealistic goals, expectations not being met, inexperience, being just being moody (nah, that's actually just related to camps).

Steve said that the saying can mean both; that the tough clear out, or the tough get into action. And I guess, as I have developed my own understanding of the world around me, I've started being the action tough. I have stood my ground on a whole range of things which were seriously concerning me about an organization I was part of, and that was really the beginning. I have started saying no a lot more, and giving my reasons. Being the last one to jump ship is sometimes okay. Being the first one to make that call is sometimes okay. It's the reasons behind it that define who is going because they're scared and who is going because they are courageous.

Of course I have done a lot of things in the past few years that have been tough for me, and Guides has been a huge part of that. I have done everything from capsizing my canoe into the Port River on purpose to travelling alone to India to spending entire weekends with people I don't know. The best part is that I have seen change, and that I have helped make change happen. And for that reason, I am both strong and full of courage. The old Guide Law says that 'A Guide smiles and sings under all difficulties'. This much is true.

How are these two statements connected?
Being true to yourself if about making the hard choices, not just acknowledging that life can be tough sometimes and doing nothing about it. To make those choices, you need to have strength and courage. Some days I really lack those things, but the more opportunities you have to make the tough decisions, the more the tough get going. This year my motto has been 'don't overthink it'. I'm sick of having to talk through every little issue all the time. I want to act, not on a blind faith or whim, but under the knowledge that things can happen, dreams can come true and one day a challenge won't be challenging. It will be a mastered skill.