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Girl Guides or Boy Scouts

Beyond the the leaf, the trunk and the roots there is a soil that helps us emerge as individuals. What happens to us along the path of growth is unique. The conditions of the soil and where we choose to lay our roots makes us special. Even amidst the not so fine growing conditions where I grew up, I was never short on hypothetical nutrients, sunlight and support - the same nutrients, sunlight and support that I have found here in Canmore. 

The biggest fight I ever recall getting into with my mother was when I was ten years old. While at a provincial hockey tournament in a small town nestled in the heart of Newfoundland, called Harbour Grace, she refused to allow me to get my favourite number shaved into the back of my, already very boyish 'skateboard', haircut. I didn't understand why being a girl should be correlated with my hairstyle, but that was a battle which was clear, I wasn't going to win. My mother however, was most accepting and supportive of my atypical little girl choices. At that time, as with the most of my childhood,  it was particularly important to me to be like rest of the guys. And for as far back as my mind can recall I did everything in my power to be just in fact that, one of the boys.  My early years were jam packed with extremely awkward and odd encounters. Encounters that you just might imagine would come with the upbringing of a very dedicated tomboy. And just as you would imagine that those early years greatly impact any kid, these events helped to define mine and the person I am today.

I was most certainly not your typical little girl who liked princesses, dresses, pink things and barbies and in fact, if you said I did, you may have gotten a shot in the nose or at the very least a very unpleasant looking scrunched up face. Looking back however, I know that there always was a softness, a sweet side and some touch of femininity lurking in the back round but, as a kid, I always did my absolute best to hide that side as far away as possible. Little girls like me who preferred Tonka trucks over barbies, hockey over ballet, jogging suits over dresses and who's majority of friends were  of the opposing gender were known as tomboys. The girls I did connect with, were girls who were almost as awkward and tomboyish as me and whom I still, and will forever, share the most special of relationships with. Of course there are differing degrees of the tomboy spectrum, not every little tomboy girl pees in boys washrooms, sports rat tails and frequents the principles office for starting school yard brawls. Little Aaron or even sometimes Eric Woodrow, as I was generally referred, was as far right on that spectrum as possible which was inevitably packaged with a range of  interesting dilemmas that come along with being a little girl who looked and so badly wanted to be just like the rest of the boys, but never really could.

Choosing a less stereotypical girl childhood path likely contributed to a slightly altered perspective in respect to some aspects of life. The idea of not being just as strong or as smart or as fast, not having the hardest slap-shot or best jumper, regardless of gender, never once registered with me. I never saw myself as different than any of my buddies and I never identified with being either a girl or boy. Just a kid who generally speaking, liked boyish stuff over girlish stuff who never let gender be a barrier or even a consideration in any endeavour undertaken. I never felt different or as an outsider as a girl in boys sports leagues, I was completely comfortable with being the only girl in any male dominated situation I was in and I never felt as though I couldn't do something that a boy could do. When my skates hit the ice, I was a goalie, not a girl goalie; when I threw a  punch, I was a fighter, not a girl fighter and when I built cabins in the woods with my buddies, I was just another friend.

Looking back, I am incredibly thankful for been given what I believe to be, a very advantageous outlook on life for a little girl, or little boy for that matter. To never attach yourself to a result or specific outcome because that was what someone else thought you were supposed to be doing or that was what was thought to be more normal. I know there were certain adults, coaches, or parents of my friends who wanted to put me in a little girl box, whether is was gearing up in a separate change room, not being invited to parties or not making certain sports teams but for the most part my parents, especially my mother, wanted me to be exactly who I was and supported and encouraged any path that that may have been (even though she didn't let me shave my number into the back of my head, which by the way, I ultimately forgave her for). I haven't decided if  her acceptance was from the purest form of love, the kind that I think that only a parent could understand or if it was her progressive attitude, likely some combination of them both but I know she, and my father, received an unfair share of disapproving looks, comments and feedback because their little girl wasn't like the other little girls, in a time where the atypical gender role topic wasn't really on the agenda. Being 'normal'  just wasn't all that appealing to me which my parents were happy to stand behind. My rubber boots, plaid shit, ripped jeans, 'skateboard' cut and rat tail, bruises and scars suited me just fine and that little girl was exactly who I was supposed to be.

During those early I feared the inevitable package that adolescence brought and how I knew that once it emerged my life would be forever altered. And sure enough, it came, just as each seasons does. For the best of us, those years really suck and for me I think they may have even had an extra sting. I knew I needed to accept the 'horrible' fate that hormones would bring and knew that someday I would become a women (barf). At that time; growing boobs, getting a period, kissing boys were possibly the most horrible of horrible things that I could have possibly imagined could happen to me. I could write a book about the awkwardness of my adolescence years that I'm sure fellow tomboys could relate. The mindset of those early years however, never left me and have and will always be rooted in the foundation of who I am and what I hope to represent. This atypical outlook I carried was not necessarily good, bad or indifferent but my relationships,  my career, friendships and certain life choices may not be quite the same as most women, as we are all a sum of the parts that life has made us. The ignorance of gender roles, the foundation of independence and equality and a deep feeling of strength and courage was rooted in my childhood and has time and time again allowed me to never set restrictions in life, to dream big and possess the courage to go after the things that were and are important to me. Even after those dreaded hormones kicked in and did what they do I was fortunate to inadvertently receive, to some degree anyways,  the inside track on the male mind and have been fortunate to always been able to relate and connect in a special way with friends of the opposing gender. I've had a successful career in a male dominated industry and participated and sometimes excelled in what are more, thought to be, male dominated sports.

And now to bring this around to my female counterparts in my ever so quaint but incredibly bad ass mountain home. I have a hunch that some of my newly befriended female counterparts can relate to these words and experiences. One of my initial observations upon my arrival in Canmore was the overwhelming abundance of female athletes who I can only speculate register somewhere in that tomboy spectrum I referred to above. Of course i'm aware that you don't need to be a tomboy to kick butt but i'm convinced that there must be some correlation along that spectrum. And, let me tell you, coming from a very well schooled tomboy, Canmore is your typical tomboy's dream. At first, I was incredibly humbled and maybe even a little intimidated by the the women who surrounded me who shred, grind, and rip it up like it's nobodies business and that most men could only dream of doing. Chicks, young and old, pushing their physical limits, constantly challenging themselves, some looking to hunt down competition others others simply looking to take it all in. If for a minute, somewhere along the line, I may have considered myself, to at least some degree 'badass', I barely register with some of the women who surround me, however that being said, some of the ladies who impress me the most are the ones that constantly flash huge smiles, positive attitudes and contagious energy regardless of size, race placing or previous accomplishments. There is a youthful tomboyish or maybe just childlike sense of life and energy that embodies the folks of canmore that is contagious if  one should choose to expose them-self. The tom boy ways I've carried with my throughout these 34 years feel a little more settled here, a little more normal and as though I have found a place where I belong. The soil feels right.

My mom registered me for girl guides when I was 9 (probably the second biggest fight we were ever in). I promised her I would give it a chance but it sincerely took 5 minutes for me to realise that girl guide activities weren't for me (you are, by now, likely not shocked by this). The next week I tagged along with a friend to boys scouts. All my friends were in boy scouts and their activities suited me better. As you may have guessed I choose boys scouts over girl guides and after a plea with the scouting organisation from my mother to let her daughter be a boy scout I was allowed. It has become increasingly more common to choose paths less travelled. I choose to concentrate on my career, pursue more education and fought competitively on the Canadian boxing team until I was 28. Getting married and having kids have not yet made it to my priority list and that's not to say that someday they won't but I certainly don't believe it's been wrong that they haven't yet or may never. There is no rule book on these types of life choices and labels should only be created by our own doing. I have gradually observed a shift that isn't as definitively putting people in boxes, that isn't as much making decisions right or wrong based on gender and making it more acceptable to be and express whoever you are. I know now that the path to the most authentic form of yourself is the one that begins with holding on and being proud of who you are, of owning your idiosyncrasies and perceived flaws and being crazy in love with who you are. I fondly think back to a Robert Frost poem I studied in grade 5 when I recall these childhood memories, "I choose to take the road less travelled, and that has made all the difference".

School picture Grade 4: I always wore a sweater and pants to hide the tunic I was forced to wear. I wrote a letter to the principle asking for the girls be allowed to wear pants because i didn't think it was fair.

White knights Hockey Team (goalie): I was the only girl in the Celtics hockey league.

Left : That was my scrunched up looking face referred to above. 
Baseball: Although not my favourite sport as a kid I played ball for a few years as pitcher and shortstop. 

Grade 5: My little sister was born when i was 10 years old. She was my little buddy and I did everything I could to protect and help raise her. 


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