Have you ever taken a trip down memory lane, delving into your school reports?

It was a twist of fate that led me to revisit my primary school reports earlier this year (2023). The reason behind this unexpected journey was bittersweet – the sudden passing of my mother meant an unexpected trip back to South Africa.

In the middle of the emotionally charged process of clearing out all her belongings, I found, tucked away at the back of her wardrobe, not just material possessions, but a treasure trove of precious memories. Nestled among the photographs, certificates, and various artifacts, I stumbled upon a collection of my old school reports.

As I sifted through the words spoken by all my teachers, both primary and secondary school, all those years ago, a recurring theme emerged.

“Colleen is easily distracted,” one report claimed.
Another stated, “Colleen is often dreamy,”
A pattern continued, “Colleen must learn to control her talkative nature,” declared one.
Another urged me to “learn to use my imagination” and to “be creative”.

Surprisingly absent were any references to what have become integral aspects of my identity today. Nowhere did those reports mention:
“Colleen has an affinity with animals”
“Colleen has hundreds of ideas that she had no idea what to do with.”
“Colleen is caring and empathic.”
“Colleen is naturally intuitive.”
“Colleen has natural communication skills.”

It struck me with a profound realization – the narratives we’re fed by those around us in our early years, don’t define us. They didn’t then and they shouldn’t do now.

Just because I was labelled as ‘easily distracted’ or ‘dreamy’ in the past, doesn’t mean I’m those things forever. The truth is that we always have the power of choice, and the ability to redefine ourselves as we evolve through life.

Reflecting on my own journey, I couldn’t help but wonder about others. What were you known for in your school days, and how does it contrast with the person you’ve become today? Our younger selves, are potentially moulded by the perceptions of others and these labels given to us in our past need not dictate our present or future selves.

Perhaps, like me, you were once pigeonholed into a limited narrative, but as time unfolds, so do the layers of our personality and character. The qualities that were overlooked or dismissed in your school reports might very well be the pillars upon which you’ve built your current identity.

So, I invite you to think back to those long-forgotten reports, not as a testament to who you were, but as a testament to the incredible journey of self-discovery and growth that each of us have embarked upon.

It’s a reminder that the canvas of our lives is constantly being painted and repainted, shaped by the choices we make and the paths we traverse.

What parts are you currently repainting?