Samantha With The Good Hair

Today I was lurking on LinkedIn and a girl I went to high school with — Samantha — popped up in my feed.

She was the top of the pile in my year. The coolest of the cool kids.

(Turns out she still is — she works as a special consultant to the UN in Paris and has hair I would cut someone for right now.)

She was the first person to start bringing coffee to our 7.30am extension history class in Year 11. That one caught on quick.

She cut class when she felt like it, partied when she felt like it, and hung out in the library when she felt like it.

Samantha was, and is, the picture of a rebel in my mind. But it wasn’t the coffee or her occasional absence from class that did it.

It was the sense she exuded of being completely self-contained.

She didn’t need anyone to tell her what to think: she already knew. She was smart, and she was comfortable with that. She didn’t mind being in the spotlight, or out of it. She was just who she was.

Now, I’m not so naive to think that a 17-year-old in a competitive all-girls high school didn’t have stuff she was dealing with. Of course she did. But it didn’t consume her.

She relinquished none of her power in the face of her fears.

I think about her often, and was doing so long before she showed up on LinkedIn today. We weren’t really friends — just had a few classes together — but she was one of my earliest teachers.

She taught me that the core of being cool, of being a rebel, is about knowing yourself. I try to bring that to my writing every day, to remember to take enough time to hear myself, and to value what I have to say.

That self-awareness and self-acceptance are so powerful for writers (well, for anyone, but especially writers).

To write the pieces that resonate deeply with your readers, that ring in their minds for years to come, there has to be the honesty and the clear eye that we only get from learning to look at ourselves without flinching.

I wasn’t one of the cool kids at school. You probably wouldn’t call me a rebel to look at me. But I’ve learned how to know myself, and that has made all the difference.