My Choice (or Emotional Poverty) and The Girl Effect

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

My clock is ticking. My girl clock. And not in the way you’re probably thinking. My girl clock that still remembers what it was like to be twelve years old and scared, not knowing what life lay ahead of me. I did not grow up in poverty, unless you count emotional health as wealth. And then I grew up in some extreme poverty. Poverty I didn’t believe I would ever grow out of. Poverty I didn’t believe anyone could ever grow out of, least of all, me.

I nearly allowed this kind of poverty to kill me.

I grew up thinking that it was okay to break the law. Not because that’s what was modeled for me, but because I need attention so badly, I didn’t care if it was positive or negative (and frankly, positive attention never seemed to flow my way).

I grew up thinking it was okay to build my self-esteem based on what someone else thought of me. After all, “do as I say, not as I do” and “you are what I say you are” were common logic in my family when I grew up.

I grew up thinking I would end up just like my mother. At twelve that didn’t bother me.

But at sixteen, when she was killed by her boyfriend (a man who spent the better part of that relationship with his grubby hands all over my under-age body), I no longer liked the idea of ending up like my mother.

Something had to give.


At the time it happened, I was in placement (where they send naughty girls to scare them out of getting arrested again and sent to juvenile hall). Was it the stolen car, the drugs in my locker, the petty theft from Mervyn’s or Nordstrom, or skipping my court date for one or all of those? I don’t remember. I guess it doesn’t matter. What matters is what happened while I was in placement.

For years I couldn’t picture my life as an adult. I figured that meant that I wouldn’t live long enough to make it to adulthood. I figured I had to live my life fast and hard if I was going to get anything good in. Like I knew what good was at twelve or sixteen. My peripheral vision was slight back then, only I thought I could see from one end of the world to the other. That changed in placement, and I finally saw my future.

The future I saw was through the lives of the girls I lived with while I was there. The girls who’d been there before and couldn’t keep from coming back because it was all they knew. The girls who got in fights because they didn’t know how to communicate (myself included). The girl who thought it was okay to poison another with Ajax in mashed potatoes because I took “her” alarm clock into a different room. The girls who got pregnant while in placement (there were only two during my two-and-a-half-year stay, but they were both my “friends”). This was my future, laid out before me. All I had to do was change nothing.

Instead, I chose a different life.


I chose to share in therapy after my mom died. I chose to write an essay to get into the emancipation program in my placement. I chose to get a job while I was there. I chose to save my money. I chose to live on my own and pay my rent. I chose to have conversations with my grandmother. I chose to learn how to communicate with my father. I chose to educate myself in the best way I knew how. I chose to be good at the job I did. I chose to make mistakes. I chose to learn form those mistakes. I chose to make a difference in my own life because it became evident while I was in placement that no one would do it for me.

All in all, I chose to live.


It’s possible that my mother raised me right in all that she did wrong. It’s possible that my mother made some mistakes and simply did the best she knew how to do in raising me. It’s possible that all the love my mother had for me couldn’t and wouldn’t translate into raising me right. From what I understand, there’s no manual handed out to perspective or expectant mothers on how to raise a child “right”. In the end, we can only do what we can with what we have.

The thing is, when you recognize that what you have is not enough, that’s when you have to go out and get it. You can’t just sit around and wait for the world to change, wait for things to get better, wait for someone to be nice, wait for someone to show you respect, wait for someone to give you a break, wait for someone else to give you that one thing that will make it all better.

You’ll be waiting forever.

What you can do is make a choice. Make a choice that your life is going to be better today than it was yesterday. That your life is going to be better tomorrow than it was today. Make a choice that you are the only one who has control over your own destiny, regardless of what anyone else does or says. Make a choice to live your life in a way that makes you proud, and fuck everyone else.


If you aren’t proud of yourself, then it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of you.

Those words were spoken to me by a wise staff member at Penny Lane just after I’d climbed up on the garage roof after getting into a fight over that alarm clock I mentioned. I’m not typically a fighter, but when backed into a corner, I can take care of myself. And so I did.

At the time, I thought I was proud of myself for sticking up for myself. But as I let those words sink in, their impact was great. A shift was born. This shift allowed me to make that choice for a different life. A life that would let me live. A life that would let me thrive.

As my girl clock is ticking these days, I remember my roots. I remember where I came from. I remember that I had a choice. And I remember that I made it. What’s your choice?


This morning I planned a little social media time. Time to catch up, time  to reflect, time to engage. One of my favorite Twitter lists led me to this tweet from @AngelaKelsey:

The video makes me cry every time, too. RT @photobird The Girl Effect #girleffect

Clicking on the link popped up this video, and I watched, listened, took it all in:

Which had me responding: “Makes me want to ACT.”

Which, after a couple of nudges, had me writing this post.

After writing this post, I wonder: What impact does The Girl Effect have on you?

If you’d like to write your own post, checkout the wiselivingblog for the dets (which I did not do before I wrote this post, which is why this post doesn’t exactly follow directions. Haven’t been good at following directions in quite some time….)

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Tina November.18.2010 at 12.58 am

You never fail to get my attention. *thumbs up*

Square-Peg Karen November.18.2010 at 1.26 pm

Oh, Dian – this grabbed my heart and shook it hard! I’m nearly speechless – all I can say is: I love the grace-filled can-do hope (as opposed to rule-bound can-and-should-do-damn-it) you share here, I love your writing, I love who you are – how you share, I love YOU!

Julie Jordan Scott November.18.2010 at 7.10 pm

Ahhhh, beloved friend. I wrote my Girl Effect post today. So powerful and so important. Who am I to resist being a World Leader?


Anonymous November.20.2010 at 3.00 pm

Oh, Dian, thank you for this powerful post. And for reminding me of my ticking girl clock. xo

SusanJ November.25.2010 at 6.54 pm

This is so powerful Dian! I especially love this bit:
“The thing is, when you recognize that what you have is NOT enough, that’s when you have to go out and get it.”

I’m pondering my own Girl Effect post today and this one has got my inner “pot” simmering. Truly glad to have found you!

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