I started reading the Nancy Drew mysteries when I was about 9. I vividly remember spending a summer sitting around all day with my nose in a Nancy Drew book. I loved them so much, my mom signed me up to receive 3 by mail every month. It didn’t take me long to finish them, and it wasn’t long before I was begging her to take me to the bookstore so I could get more.
It’s really my mom’s fault. She had read a few of the yellow cover books and her parents had kept them. One afternoon, she was helping her parents clear out an old garage and found a box of musty books. I was becoming more proficient at reading, so she thought I might enjoy them and brought them home.
For about a year, I didn’t have much interest. The books were old and showed signs of water damage. They smelled funny and the covers looked sad. But, one day, I was bored and leafed through one. It was actually interesting! But the books smelled awful. Off to the bookstore we went so I could get a shiny new copy.
I was hooked. For about 2 years, I devoured Nancy Drew and her adventures. Week after week, I began to prefer reading her stories to playing with toys more and more.
There was something fascinating about her to me. She was fearless and could literally do and know anything and everything. Her father had such an incredible trust in her that, in more than one story, she helped him with his cases at only 18!
To a 10 year old mind, Nancy was perfect and what I strove to be. I wanted to be fearless. I wanted to find and stumble into adventure and mysteries. I wanted to be that smart and capable. I wanted to know and do everything.
I was 10 and thought it was possible. I thought 8 years would be enough time for me to learn everything Nancy knew. She seemed so grown up and mature. I wanted her grace and tact. So, for a short time, I tried to be like her. I studied like crazy and tried to be more fearless (I am, in fact, the furthest thing from a risk taker and a total scaredy cat).
When I turned 18, I was still rereading my Nancy Drew favorites. But becoming her was less and less my dream. Instead, I simply enjoyed her adventures while ignore the lie her life was telling me page after page. It was impossible to really be Nancy Drew. I seriously doubt any 18 year old can be that smart, capable, talented, trusted, and poised.
Nancy Drew, along with my mom, was my role model growing up. Now that I am actually grown up, I don’t look up to her anymore, but I still covet being the kind of person she is in the pages I spent much of my adolescence buried in.
Instead of being smart, capable, talented, trusted, and poised, I look at the kind of person she really is. She is someone who is always willing to help, always willing to help solve someone’s problem. She is a thrill seeker with diverse interests. At the same time, she is kind, helpful, strong minded, a quick thinker, and knows herself and her own mind.
That’s the dream, isn’t it? To know yourself that well. To be self-assured and confident. As a mom, my kids constantly shake this. I am not always sure footed, but I most definitely have to be a quick thinker.
When I was 18, I was no where close to where Nancy was. I was unsure and lacked confidence. All I knew was that I was smart. I was talented in a few areas, but no where near as talented as Nancy. I still lack certain social skills, but Nancy is more of an extrovert to my extreme introvertedness. I could never do the mingling and small talk she has to engage in to get suspects to open up. I am not socially savvy like Nancy. Nor will I ever be because I’d rather talk to trees and walls than other people.
Over 10 years later, I don’t seek to be Nancy. Instead I long to be like her: confident, poised, and always willing to help. Nancy has her faults, like being overly nosey and often ignoring what her friends might want to do, but she knows herself and doesn’t let anyone bulldoze over her.
My Nancy Drew books have followed me for about 20 years now. For the first 10 or so, it was because I always circle back to them. I can’t help but love reading her adventures and losing myself in a mystery that usually doesn’t involve blood and death, or not much of it. And while I still enjoy them, I’m really keeping them for the daughter I am raising.
My daughter is a little over one and still years away from reading. She still thinks books are for licking and eating. Right now she’s obsessed with a picture book about germs. Let’s ignore the irony there. But I’m keeping Nancy Drew for when she is older, just like my mom kept hers for her future daughter. I hope my daughter enjoys Nancy as much as I did. And I hope my daughter can learn what I learned: to be confident, poised, and willing to help as she navigates through life.
Nancy Drew was written to be absolutely perfect, which is really a poor message to send to anyone. But, if you look deeper, you can see a young woman who is just confident in herself, and that’s a message I hope to send to my daughter, and one I hope to always remember for myself.
Whether or not you enjoyed Nancy Drew, too, always remember to be confident in everything you do. You get to live your life, so live it in a way that makes you happy, regardless of what anyone says or thinks. (Psst! They’re probably jealous they’re not as confident and self-assured as you!)