catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 2 :: 2014.01.24 — 2014.02.06


How to quit like a scout

In the third grade, I quit Girl Scouts.  I had loved being a Brownie for the previous two years.  Believe it or not, I thought the uniform was cooler – even the beanie.

Girl Scouts was another matter.  I’ve learned from people who stayed in for the long haul or at least longer than I did, that your troop really matters.  What I attributed to the organization was probably the particular troop leaders I had.  But I didn’t know that then.  I just knew it didn’t feel right and I wanted to leave.

I don’t know where I got my notions and expectations, other than the word scouts, but I had the impression we’d be camping and spending time in the woods and, while not exactly learning survival skills, at least learning how to tie a knot.  Nothing in my family life encouraged these expectations.  We weren’t a camping or hiking family.  My dad grew up on a farm but we were firmly planted in the suburbs.  I was the oldest child and the oldest grandchild, so there weren’t more experienced siblings or cousins to suggest my Girl Scout experience wasn’t up to par.

I just had an inkling. 

There were some early signs.  Our troop did go camping one weekend, to a place with platform tents and outhouses — concessions I appreciated.  But when we made S’mores, we used tin foil to contain the mess and melt everything together — no actual roasting of marshmallows — and at breakfast, we ate out of the little cereal boxes that turn themselves into bowls.  It was a sanitized version of camping and it left me deflated.

Then there were my little brother’s Cub Scout stories.  While he — two years younger and only in Cub Scouts — was using a knife and tying knots, my troop was learning to knit.  Knitting was the final straw.  I know it’s hip and trendy now, but in the 70s it was neither.  Only old ladies were doing it.  I had zero interest in knitting and I had no idea why scouts would be required to knit.

Still, I stuck it out a week past the horrid knitting meeting.  I thought it was a huge misstep but something better had to be around the bend.  Nope.  More knitting.  Two weeks in a row. 

I hated the feeling that somehow I wasn’t the right kind of girl for not enjoying what everyone else seemed to be fine with, but the accumulation of disappointments was getting to me.  I thought about it, and then announced to my parents that I didn’t want to be a Girl Scout anymore.

I don’t remember that conversation.  What I remember is the next time we visited my grandparents and my dad told them I had quit Girl Scouts, as if it were newsworthy.  I remember the pit-of-my-stomach pull when my grandmother looked worried and wondered aloud why anyone would want to go and do that.  Before that moment, I had never considered my decision having an impact on anyone except me, and maybe my troop.

And, really, it didn’t.  But I was unprepared for the intrusion of other opinions on my decision.  When my grandmother asked why and I tried to explain it by talking about the indignity of knitting, she didn’t understand.  I felt like I disappointed my family but couldn’t figure out why.

Maybe they were afraid I’d become “a quitter” and wanted to encourage stick-to-itiveness.  Maybe they really liked Girl Scout cookies and were upset not to have an inside connection anymore.

All I know is I’m proud of my third-grade-self for trusting my gut, for not sticking it out when conditions weren’t right.  It’s easier to keep going on the trajectory of the current path, to maintain expectations — our own or those of others.    Quitting isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s the brave path and you find it like a true scout, assessing conditions, trusting yourself and forging into the unknown.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus