Thanks to You, Nancy Drew

In today’s world, it seems like we really do need a specified day that stops the pace of life in tracks, so that for a few short hours, we can remember the things for which we have to be grateful. It isn’t until we stuff ourselves full of turkey and potatoes that we express appreciation towards the people around us, those who couldn’t make it home for the holiday, our family, health, happiness, life, love, and all other things we take for granted day after day. I am thankful for all of these things and am especially thankful that I have been given a supportive family and amazing friends, but they deserve more than one day of my thoughts and recognition. 

Therefore, this piece will not be about my friends, family, teachers, coaches, or even my dogs (who have been the purest blessings in my life), but rather about the woman who inspired me to pursue higher education, push the boundaries of my curiosity, and strive to be the best self I could possibly be. After about one hundred and fifty books, thirty-two video games, and at least three television shows and movies, I would like to give my gratitude to the greatest girl detective of all time, Nancy Drew. 

                                                            Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com 

I have always been a fairly introverted person, and when I was young, I found myself with a lot of empty free time. I was fairly isolated from my peers because I couldn’t find anything I had in common with them, and that was devastating for a nine-year-old girl who wanted nothing more than to fit in. I started to realize that I wasn’t bored, but was actually lonely...until my cousin gave me three boxes of hand-me-down books. 

There was some great material in there: Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and even the Little House on the Prairie set. However, one of the boxes drew me in the most, and though I may have moved on from many of my childhood obsessions, books 52-92 of the Nancy Drew original collection are still on my shelf back home. I loved the detective and all of her thrilling adventures, but perhaps what sparked my interest the most was her independence. She had her own car, made her own decisions, and acted with confidence and poise, even in the face of danger. It was a revelation for me, as I was still afraid to look adults in the eye at the time. I could be just like Nancy. I could learn how to stand up for myself and be brave no matter what stood in my way. I am so thankful for Nancy Drew because she taught me that loyalty, determination, and curiosity are what make girls strong and empower them to become great women, leaders, and entrepreneurs in the modern world. 

Nancy Drew taught me devotion. She kept her best friends Bess and George by her side for almost ninety years, now. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is. One thing that surprised me about this series was how willing Nancy was to ask her friends for help. Instead of seeing her inexperience as a weakness, she saw it as an opportunity to learn. She always trusted her friends and father to help, and in exchange, would assist them in every way she possibly could; and not because she felt indebted, but because it was the right thing to do. She even states, “The world fondly remembers those who give, and soon forgets only those who take.” 

Nancy is always determined to find an answer. Despite being an amateur detective (and a female one at that!), she followed her instincts in search of truth and justice. If the character herself isn’t enough proof of female empowerment, how about a quick history lesson of her original author? Mildred A. Wert Benson -yes, that’s right, Carolyn Keene is a pen name- embodied her vision of what a capable super sleuth would be to break the barriers of the stereotypical domestic mindset only nine years after suffrage had been resolved! Despite leaving her position after taking a pay cut during the Great Depression, Benson returned to her female hero, determined to keep Nancy out of the hands of male authors who would see her restored to a domicile character. Nancy was to be a household name, not a household wife! Through both the story of our heroine and the story of her creator, I was convinced that women could do anything they wanted as long as they set their minds to it and saw it through until the end.

This leads to my last point, which is the most important in my mind. I’d like to think that I made the decision to pursue higher education on my own, but that just isn’t true. Ever since playing Stay Tuned for Danger, the second installment in the video game series, and hiding behind my mom as she clicked through one of the scary parts for me, I knew I wanted to chase knowledge as much as possible. The books have a wide variety of subjects, but the games are what set me along the path of a science career. The interactive interface of the Nancy Drew games allowed me to learn about circuits, Tesla coils, weather patterns, archeology, and my ultimate favorite: marine mammals. That’s right, Danger on Deception Island (game nine) featured an orca whale that I loved so much my mind wired itself towards studying the ocean, and now here I am, a decade later, majoring in Marine Biology. 

One of my favorite quotes from the games was directed at Nancy, but since I was playing as her, I will never shake the feeling that it was actually directed at me. “Your mind is like a ravenous monkey gobbling up every banana in its path! How can I stand in the way?” I wanted to follow in the detective’s footsteps, wanted to feed my curiosity by seeking knowledge through books, school, and in time, my own research. 

                                                           Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com 

I’m still introverted, but anytime an opportunity to learn presents itself, I put my anxieties aside to imitate the courage Nancy had in every case she faced. She was, and still is, devoted to aiding others, uncovering knowledge, and striving for greatness in every facet of her life. This heroine is the reason why I am where I am today, and though it’s hard to thank a fictional character for her role in my life, I can offer gratitude to all of the people who made her legacy possible. 

Nancy Drew paved the way for females with her intellect and tenacity, and her strength has been influencing thousands of girls for ninety years. Through books, games, shows, and movies, this amateur detective has made it possible for every young woman, including me, to evaluate her own fortitude and skill and pursue her dreams, no matter what they may be. I’m so thankful that my cousin graced me with all of those books many years ago, because she not only gifted me a hobby that has lasted a decade, but also a role-model whose empowering impact will last me a lifetime.