For Women's History Month in 2021, the RTD Strong Voices program celebrates the power and stories of Richmond women. Raised in Midlothian, Melissa Chase is the longtime morning radio host on SummitMedia’s 103.7 Your Variety. She also is operations and program director for the company’s six stations in the area, including Classic Rock 96.5, K95, Awesome 100.9, Sports 106.1 and Classic Hip Hop G104.3.
A LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF
Dear Middle School Melissa,
It’s OK that you never got the shorts. You know ... the shorts.
Light blue denim with a triangle logo on the back pocket, emblazoned with the word “Guess” in red stitching. The ultimate status symbol.
Except Mom wouldn’t buy them for you — because she didn’t understand that a pair of designer jean shorts made you instantly popular.
What she did get was that spending $50 on a pair of shorts for a middle schooler was downright ridiculous.
That’s why you went to middle school wearing ... Palmettos. The cheap knockoff — in ugly stone-washed fabric, with an embarrassing palm tree patch — reminded you that just as Madonna warned us a decade earlier, we were living in a material world.
Melissa, I thought about our shorts because I want to share some wisdom from your older self. For a while, I was stuck on what to say.
But then I took out the letters I still have from our preteen days, and I read through them. I was reminded of who we were then — of what was so important to our middle school life.
So here are two tokens of wisdom I offer you today:
First, there’s a secret clarity when you realize that you are not going to be the coolest kid in middle school.
By surrendering your dream to be Queen Bee, you can focus on what actually makes you happy, not others. There is comfort in this: You start finding your passions and working hard at them to develop your skills.
So who cares if the cool girls aren’t into performing on stage and doing music? You’re going to love a career — as radio personality and programmer — that combines both.
Oh ... and those kids who made fun of you? They’re totally going to ask if you can help them get concert tickets and party with rock stars.
Second, not being at the top of the middle-school-cool pyramid will make you resilient and caring.
Yes, your heart will break when the boys you crush on choose beautiful, popular classmates to ask to dances instead of you. But you’ll learn about true friendship when your girlfriends stay on the phone for hours to comfort you.
Yes, you’ll be teased for everything from your freckled face to being the only Jewish kid in school. But you’ll learn to develop a thick skin — and let me tell you, girl, you’ll need that when you discover social media later on!
And the best lesson of all? Instead of pushing others down so you remain atop the pyramid, you’ll learn to be empathetic, kind and loving. You’ll learn that people matter more than things — and elevating others to success doesn’t take away from your own achievements.
A final thought, Melissa. One day, you’ll have a daughter going through the struggles of middle school herself.
Just know that Momma gave you a true gift, one you’ll share with your daughter, too: Find your own path. It’s the cool thing to do — and no fancy jean shorts are required.