The Profound Wisdom of The Magic School Bus

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably felt your heart race with excitement as you heard the familiar “beep beep” of a horn and Ms. Frizzles distinguished voice call out “seatbelts everyone!”. Something about the mixture of magic and science, exploring our world (and sometimes others) in a hands-on adventure made science fun! I even had a magic school bus computer game that I played: All. The.  Time.

And even though they didn’t always get the facts right (after all, science is an ever-evolving field with new developments daily and… well, magic.) I’m sure all that exposure at a young age to the realms of Magic School Bus had a huge impact on my understanding of how various things work; from photosynthesis in plants to the human digestive system.

But I have to say the most profound lesson Magic School Bus had to offer was something I hadn’t really given thought to until recently… My son and I were watching the episode where they explore inside a rotting tree (classic!), and the Frizz said something so familiar, yet so brand new at the same time and it was like a smack in the face. But a loving one. Like a “wake up and see what’s right in front of you!” from a dear friend.

The Magic School Bus Season 1 Episode 6
“Meets the Rot Squad”

It was something that seemed so basic as a kid and just like a fun way to look at things. But seeing it now I realized that one of the most profound lessons I’ve learned through all my years of self development, something I was FINALLY just starting to embrace and realize the significance of, was something that this kooky magical teacher with the wild red hair had been trying to tell me since childhood:

Ms. Frizzle saying:
"Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!"
“Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”

Take chances.

Make mistakes.

Get messy.

And it got me thinking… when did this become such a challenging thing for me to live by? I was an expert at this as a kid. Seriously. My nickname was literally “Messy Jessie”. Given to me by my parents. 

My own school field trips were a bit of a challenge for me. I loved them!!! But the parent chaperones basically played “shotty not” when it came to driving me back to school. (For those who are unfamiliar with the rules of shotty not, the last one to say it is stuck doing whatever horrible thing they are “shotty not”ing about.) To be honest, I don’t really blame them… I WAS always somehow covered head to toe in mud. It didn’t seem to matter where we went… you could take me to the cleanest location and I would find a way!

No joke it was like that Robert Munsch book where the mud puddle follows the girl around and jumps on her when she least expects it! And just like her I would look at my parents sheepishly, feeling slightly guilty and they would scrub me clean. In fact they were so used to me getting messy that when my birthmark first made its debut when I was in preschool my mom was convinced I had just gotten dirt on my arm. Just like Jule Ann’s mother she scrubbed and scrubbed until my skin was red and a bit raw, because she was sure it would come off with just a little more scrubbing! But to no avail, it turned out to be a permanent mark that is still growing to this day! (Albeit much more slowly). Serving as a permanent reminder of my messy nature. 

The difference between me and Jule Ann, is that I wasn’t just sitting around innocently, trying carefully to stay clean and getting attacked by the mean old mud. Oh, no. I was racing around as fast as I could, pretending I was Sonic the Hedgehog. I was searching in ditches, up past my ankles in water trying to catch frogs. I was crawling through bushes looking for snakes. I was collecting all the interesting rocks I came across. I was inspecting all the bugs and slugs along the way. I was splashing in puddles, full of joy and delight at the sensation, sound, and resulting spray of water that flew up around me as my boots slapped through the water and landed on the Earth beneath it.

I was living. 

But somehow as I grew up, that little girl with a love for life was pushed aside. Academics were more important than playing. Security was preferred over risks. Mistakes were unacceptable. And god forbid I make a mess!

Thus began a long hard struggle with perfectionism, low self compassion, striving for security and ending up with a whole crap load of stories fueled by lack and fear, eventually leading to a place where death seemed like the only answer to ending my pain.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

Most of my life I was trying to fit into a box that was the wrong shape for me. (Like putting a round peg into a square hole… it just doesn’t work.) Besides being epicly uncomfortable, I legitimately believed that there was something majorly wrong with me. I held myself to someone else’s standards, things that meant nothing to me, and when I failed to live up to them I made it mean so many different things about me. Stupid. Wrong. Misfit… And ultimately: not good enough.

Once I finally started to recognize the beauty in the way that I see the world it took years of de-conditioning before I fully embraced the practice of taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy. Before I could allow myself to jump into things before I felt “ready”. 

Because here’s the thing:

If you’re like me, before you do anything big (or sometimes even small), you plan it out. You plan the what, the where, the who, the why and the how. And if you don’t get them all planned out without any uncertainties, you don’t move forward. Whatever you’re trying to do gets left in the dust and you move on, defeated. 

We can so easily get caught up in planning things to death when we are afraid of taking the chance to show up unpolished (messy), and possibly make a mistake.

But if you’re always waiting until you get things “perfect” before you take action, how many amazing things are you missing out on through your life? 

You’ve only got one shot. One opportunity. To seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment. Do you capture it? Or just let it slip… (And yes, I definitely adapted that from Eminem, but come on – how perfectly does it fit?!)

So if you found yourself resonating with this message – if there are any areas of your life where you are holding yourself back from taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy…

You are SO capable! The world needs you to bring your own unique flavors of passion, creativity and flair to life. No one can do it for you.

I will leave you today with a few words from one of my favorite fictional shamans…

It is time…

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