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Imagine this: It's Saturday night. A teenage girl has money to blow, friends to hang out with, and a night without her parents. What does she do? In some circles, she might throw a party. In others, she might subtly point out to her significant other that the house will be empty tonight. In a select few, she might simply be scrolling through Tumblr and listening to Pandora as she avoids her homework like the plague.
What you might not expect is this: A seventeen year old girl with about $30 begs her mother to take her to target to buy her dolls new dresses and maybe a mini-doll for good measure. Her parents aren't home so she spends hours talking and playing with her dolls as she conducts various photo shoots with them throughout her front yard. Her friends? Their out having fun in their own ways.
If you haven't already guessed it, I am the seventeen year old girl. Ever since I was eight years old, I have been enchanted by the world of American Girl Stop Motion videos and everything connected to them. When I was seven, I was searching for the lyrics to All-American Girl by Carrie Underwood when I saw something.
"AMERICAN GIRL-DOLLS, BOOKS, AND GAMES FOR GIRLS"
Now, as a child of the late-90's/early-2000's, playing online barbie games was one of my favorite pass times. I learned how to "chop" food, dress fashionably, and countless other pointless things. So, when I saw "GAMES" I was already interested. But it was the DOLLS and BOOKS aspect of it that drew me in.
American Girl is a company of cloth-bodied dolls made of vinyl targeted at girls from about age 9 to 12 years old. The company features dolls with historical backgrounds: A colonial girl named Felicity, or an Edwardian-era girl named Samantha, or an ex-slave named Addy. The dolls each have their own stories and set of books, along with a whole wardrobe, set of furniture, and other accessories. In addition, the dolls are rather expensive due to their heirloom quality. At the moment, one of these dolls is priced at about $115.
At the age of seven, I already had a deep-set love for storytelling, reading, and history. However, it was not always "cool" to be smart or to enjoy learning about the civil war or the revolutionary war or the cold war. I always enjoyed history far too much, and sometimes, my "friends" could make me feel pretty badly about that.
American Girl, however, has a mission to help nurture what they call a girl's, "Inner Star," it's that little whisper in their hearts that drives them to do incredible things and to be everything they want to be in more. It's what makes little girls say that they want to be a ballerina, a doctor, a lawyer, and a mailman all by the age of 20. It's what makes girls believe that they are valued, and that they have potential. So, when I began reading the books and reading the stories about the dolls, I fell in love.
It caused me to want to continue educating myself on the past. I read The Magic Tree House series, The Dear America series, and I watched all the documentaries that I possibly could.
When I was eight, I moved to Hawaii. By then, I had not yet gotten my first doll, Natalie. I was a bullied kid, and I spent many lonely recesses throughout most of my education, sitting in the library, and reading stories about girls from the past and girls in the present who understood the way it felt to be a military kid. I used to bring a ratty old American Girl catalog to school, and I'd just flip through it, endlessly.
I sat alone at recess, dreaming of my first doll. Who would it be? Would it be the Girl of The Year 2008, Mia St. Clair? Or would it be Samantha? Felicity? Kirsten? I could never choose whom I loved more. I wanted them all. The dolls in those pictures became like friends that I knew who love and accept me if I could just afford it. I got bullied for liking dolls. That was how I made my best friend. She was the one who stood up for me, and even though she was the roughest, toughest tomboy on the playground, she was the one who sat down and listened to me muse about those dolls.
At age seventeen, these dolls have a special place in my heart. I have seven of them now: Natalie, Felicity, Sallie, Caroline, Rebekah, Ariana, and Sapphire. Many of them, I found second-hand, or earned the money for on my own. My dolls are my pride and joy: I love to dress them up, make videos of them, take pictures for their Instagram (they have 116 followers!), and do countless other things with them.
What you don't know, however, is that I am not the only one. There are many American Girl communities out there, but the two that I am most involved with are AGIG (American Girl Instagram) and AGtube (American Girl Youtube). Both are among the most accepting and generous communities, filled with girls who have been bullied about their love for their dolls, or have simply loved them their whole life. There are younger girls, and older teens. There are older collectors and generous consignment shops for girls who want the dolls but cannot afford them. There are countless giveaways, and so many beautiful friendships.
For many years, I was almost ashamed of my love for my dolls. I thought it was stupid, and immature. But really, I think my dolls have helped me to prolong my childhood, given me an outlet for my creativity and my intelligence, and helped to nurture my "inner star." The moral of this article is that we shouldn't be ashamed of the more "childish" sides of ourselves.
It's okay to love legos or to wear a superhero costume when you're thirty! It's okay to watch cartoons or to collect My Little Ponies. It's wrong to shame people or to shame yourself for the things you love, because in the end, our life too short to spend it doing things we hate. It's too short to continue living life as thought it's exhausting and meaningless. Create meaning by doing and being what you love. An artist. A sex educator. An amateur astronomer.
And if anyone tries to tell you other wise, then forget them. They don't understand, and until they look inside themselves and try to, they never will. So, next time you see that action figure at Walmart or win that cape at Six Flags, buy it or wear it! Don't think yourself that adults have to be boring and menial all the time like we are taught. Allow color into your life. Allow a little something unconventional. Allow yourself to nerd out a little!
Allow yourself to be happy.
Allow yourself to be whomever you are. Unless it's a murder or something. In that case, you should probably consult a therapist.