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Carrie Johnson

 

I am one of two children. Firstborn. My brother is five years younger and one of my best friends. My dad was a child psychologist; my mom a hairdresser by trade—but she stopped that when she had us. I grew up in a tiny town in Pennsylvania called Towanda, where there are more cows than people. The nearest mall was an hour away. There were no fast food restaurants.

I did love growing up there. Even as a teenager, I wasn’t surly about it. We invented our own fun. We lived in a development in the corner house where everyone gathered. The baseball diamond was in our front yard. The parents would sit on the porch and the kids would play baseball. I still remember the two pricker bushes that were first and third bases. We tried to run by them really fast. The bases were worn into our grass. It’s also where the streetlight was. We lived for Kick the Can! The bats would be swooping down at night. We’d have neighborhood parades and concerts. Once we performed a KISS concert. I was the drummer with the star around his eye. We charged admission. Our parents came. Now, as I’ve gotten older, I’m even more grateful for that simple upbringing.

We were a very athletic family; we got a lot of energy from sports. We were also academically driven—which I’m thankful for. My dad was very strict, which is neither here nor there, it was just the way he wanted to raise us. He’s a big outdoorsman. He loved to hunt and fish. When he was in college, he and his fraternity brothers bought some land and a rundown cabin in northern Pennsylvania. I can remember Dad would be on the snowmobile in front of us, with Mom, and we’d be in the little trailer, that you pull behind, with our helmets on. We were under so many loads of sleeping bags and groceries that we couldn’t even see. But I remember the cold air hitting my face and riding those four miles to the cabin—then rushing inside to start a fire. That place is still in our family.

I was fairly out of my comfort zone when I went to Franklin & Marshall. I had not been exposed to so many upper-class kids who had very different upbringings than I did. I felt way out of my league. I was recruited and given scholarship money to play basketball. First semester I did a lot of soul searching. I hadn’t found my niche. I hadn’t found friends with whom I felt I could be authentic. That was taken care of as soon as we started basketball practice. I became president of my sorority and became an RA. I had such a fulfilling college experience, but it took time for me to sort it all out in my head. I studied English and psychology. Pre-med didn’t work for me; it didn’t make sense. Stories and words made sense to me.

Today, I am married to a wonderful man and I have two amazing daughters. I spent many years using my God-given talents helping big companies develop their leaders and maximize the potential of their employees. I also helped start Girls on the Run of Lancaster, an organization that helps girls sort through the countless messages about their worth, image, and abilities by helping empower them to be the author of their own story. Together, with the talented GOTR staff, board and coaches, we inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident—using an experience-based curriculum that creatively integrates running. Our vision is to create a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.

If I wrote a manifesto for Girls, it would go something like this. be the boss of your own brain. Focus on your uniqueness; it will bring joy to others. Set goals. Keep moving forward. Dig deep inside and figure out what makes you strong—and do a lot of that. Find adults in your life who will help you grow those strengths. Learn how to connect with people in an open and honest and authentic way. Be fearlessly authentic and strengthen and flex your empathy muscles. Choose to see the good in others, always. Have strategies for your weaknesses. Be brave and take risks and leave your comfort zones. Don’t be afraid to try something new. You can learn from your mistakes. Ask for help. Find good role models who will connect you with others. Share your voice. Work hard. Celebrate your body. Dream big. Become a lifelong learner, which isn’t always in the classroom. Give back to the community. Don’t sell your soul to anybody or company or organization. Laugh a lot. At yourself. With your friends. Spend time alone in reflection. Be mindful and aware of your blessings. Live in gratitude. Surround yourself with love—it really is the cure to so much.

With love and admiration and hope for the future,
Carrie


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