I haven't officially worn my Catholic school uniform since 2007, and I miss it a little more each day. It was comfortable. It was flame retardant. It was bullet proof. (Well, just the waistband against trap team shotshells, but still. That's pretty badass.) The plaid skirt, knee high socks, and tucked in polos did more than save me thirty minutes each morning. They gave me confidence.
I left the house with my teeth brushed, but not always my hair. The first mirror I looked into was often my rear-view. My skirt - if it was lucky- got washed once every three weeks, but I didn't care. I was in my second skin, and off to my all-girls high school. A place where I could ask "why?" and "how?" without feeling judged. A place where my friends complimented my intelligence, not my clothes. A place* where boys were not allowed, only my dreams.
During those four years, my thoughts about the future were unbridled and unscathed by reality. They were larger than life, and logistics were never considered as part of the equation. Anything was possible. Practicality did not rule. My heart did. Those dreams were what I truly wanted out of life. They were pure. They were the ingredients that made me excited about what the future held.
College changed everything. I knew it would, but I didn't expect to wander so far away from the girl in her uniform and her sassy dreams. Living in New England, I wanted to hide my Midwestern roots. I forced myself to love the same things they did. Surrounded by wealth, I focused on finding the same success. I redefined what I thought happiness in my life should look like. I met a boy, and wanted it to work. I squashed the last few quirky sides of me to fit a mold.
I grew from these experiences, but I also lost touch with the person I fell in love with before college. Myself. Living in the post-graduation and post-relationship world I made myself the priority. For the first time, in a long time, I asked, "what do you want?" I took the time to rediscover the dreams that once belonged to a carefree girl wearing a plaid skirt. The remaining pieces of my uniform were the bread crumbs I needed to find my way back. Once I got there I realized, those simplistic and endless dreams are my Secret Sauce.
They are my secret weapon. They are not always realistic, like becoming a fighter pilot, but the very thought keeps me true to myself. I have always and will always love planes. These small, but crucial details give me the strength to own who I am as an individual. My uniform gave me the confidence to find myself all those years ago, and now, it gives me the confidence to move forward. Unapologetic. Full of sass. And with a meow.
I firmly believe finding your Secret Sauce is one of the most important things you can do. The ingredients are not complicated, but they can be tricky to find. A dash of what excites you to be alive. A pinch of what pushes you just a little bit further. A smidgen of what sparks your imagination. You can tell when someone knows their recipe by heart. They know who they are as a person, and own it. They know where to find inspiration, and get out of a rut. They know what makes them unique, and use it to their advantage.
As I write this post, I am wearing my green, long sleeve polo with the Marian script "M" resting over my heart. She is a reminder of that recipe I fought so hard to find. She has been through it all. (Including a hook up, which might explain why I am still single...) She gives me the strength to embrace my kooky side. She reminds me of what I truly love. She inspires me to dream bigger. That Marian Girl mentality of believing anything is possible is my Secret Sauce.
*This statement is a reflection of all-female institutions. I apologize if you had to suffer those extra four years with the boys. Bless their hearts.