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Pippi Longstocking

I'm of the generation that spent Saturdays watching the same things that everyone else in my generation watched ~ cartoons and children's shows in the morning and reruns of old movies in the afternoon. In the days before cable and streaming, with only a handful of stations to choose from, even less if you were in a small town, we were all raised with the same cultural references and influences, for better or for worse.

Growing up in Los Angeles, home to the film and television industry, we had several more choices of channels than other places. That didn't seem to matter though, we still watched the same shows that everyone else was watching. Inevitably my brother and I would argue over what we were going to watch. Sometimes we settled on the same shows, other times we took turns. One such show I chose and remember vividly was Pippi Longstocking, that freckled-faced girl with her crazy red pigtails sticking out the side of her head.

Pippi was a wild, imaginative, and adventurous child. She lived alone in her house called Villa Villekulla with her pet monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and her horse, Little Old Man. She was super strong and could even lift up her horse with one hand. She had a treasure box of gold coins to support her antics thanks to her absent seafaring father Captain Ephraim Longstocking. She was known for telling tall tales, but also for being kind and caring. The freedom of her childhood meant she was also free of social norms and conventions and could do pretty much whatever she wanted, unlike her two closest friends, siblings Annika and Tommy, who came from a much more conventional home.

It wasn't until I was much older that I learned that the series was dubbed, that it was originally made in Sweden, and that it was inspired by several books and stories that existed before the television show ever came to be. But despite all that, the one thing that's remained with me after all these years, is how uncomfortable Pippi's antics made me feel.

I couldn't relate at all. I remember clearly taking the side of her friend Annika in her worries and concerns that they might get in trouble for whatever it was they were up to. Annika spoke my language. I had the same straight brown hair as Annika, and I was never the one to instigate mischief but sometimes curious enough to follow along. I was definitely the rule-following good girl when I was younger, and someone like Pippi was dangerous and cool.

She was also a bit of a hero, one time Pippi stands up to and chases away some bullies, but Annika's response is to tell her, "can't you behave now, can't you be good?" Pippi had a habit of challenging the rules that adults were always imposing. In another episode Pippi comes over to a coffee party at Annika and Tommy's house that their mother is having. Once there Pippi dips her fingers into several of the desserts ignoring the glares and comments from the other mothers. But it's Annika that tell hers she can't possibly do that, "just running around and taking everything." Pippi sees it differently, why CAN'T you eat with your fingers and try the things that taste so good?

That kind of chutzpah made me so nervous. As I saw it, you HAVE to follow the rules. You HAVE to behave and be in the good graces of the adults. You cannot under any circumstances question how and why things are done the way they are done. Watching that show as a child I remember being so uncomfortable in my skin and holding my breath as she got up to her daring-do escapades.

I could chalk it up to being shy and introverted as a child. My father is outgoing and social but my mother was quieter and introverted herself. I apparently took more after her when I was younger. I was also aware at quite a young age of being not good enough compared to other children. I have too many memories of comparing myself to others: so and so had thicker, longer hair than I did, this girl played the piano better than me, the boys liked those girls but not me because I was too awkward. And on and on it went. Where does insecurity like that come from at such an early age? (This is a rhetorical question, I have many insights and opinions on this, but that's for another post.)

But somewhere, somehow, Pippi's influence worked its way through me. At some point in life I started to embrace my inner Pippi and began questioning the way things were done, if only in my head, giving myself the chance to see that life was not all black and white. Gradually, little by little, I found ways and gave myself permission to do things like question the expectations of my parents, question the religion I was raised in and the politics of the grown-ups around me, and to experiment with breaking the rules, albeit the obvious ones like underage drinking and smoking pot.

The more I did this, tip-toeing towards being more daring and questioning things, not needing the approval of others around me, I guess the easier it became? But as a young adult I became interested in astrology and learned that while my sun sign was Virgo, the classic behind the scenes supporting actor (Annika to a T), my rising sign, which is a snapshot of who we are at the moment we're born, was Sagittarius, a fiery, adventurous, risk-taker who loves freedom (hello Pippi). Aha, no wonder. I've always had this serious, rule-following, don't ruffle feathers side to me. The good girl. But throughout my adult years I've more often than not taken lots of risks and gone on many adventures. Hello freedom.

They've both served me over the years, to be sure. But the older I get? The more that I've been leaning into that Pippi side of me ~ giving her free rein ~ the happier I've become. Instead of worrying about pleasing others, keeping others comfortable by not speaking up, or adulting in the way so many folks feel like adulting should be done? The better my life has become. The more me I truly feel. The more fun I am having.

It's taken me several decades to truly embrace my inner Pippi, and Annika definitely pipes in trying to gain control, keeping me safe from new and scary experiences. But I'm more apt to listen to Pippi these days. I equate it with learning to trust my intuition, my inner knowing, and that's Pippi all the way. While the inner critic and gremlins in my head? All Annika. Sorry Annika. But it's true. No doubt Annika makes sure I pay my bills and file my taxes, but Pippi encourages me to be bold, follow my dreams, and become an entrepreneur.

I don't think it necessarily takes getting older to embrace my Pippi-ness, some folks start way earlier. If that's you, huzzah! But if you're more like me, it's never too late to start. And the older we get? The easier it becomes. So dig out your mismatched socks and your clunky black boots and go find some adventures! And call me, I'm right here ready to join you.


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