I am thrilled to share our very first Girl with Gumption, Emma Malouff! Emma is 12-years-old with an imagination you could get lost in and a will to make a difference in her world. Chatting with her, I felt myself going to back to the quick space where childhood dreams begin to take on a greater life and the world begins to show its harsher colors. Emma is wise beyond her years yet you get a sense that she'll carry her youthfulness with grace and ease as she becomes the woman she's meant to be. I hope you'll remember the joys, confusion, and ultimate wonder it is to be 12 and let yourself be inspired by Emma's beautiful spirit.
All the Delights: What does gumption mean to you?
Emma: I’d have to say my definition of gumption is taking something that was beaten, something nobody thinks can be restored, and making it better than it was before. With a happy spirit you can take a broken thing that nobody had hope in and turn it into something that holds light, hope, and beauty.
ATD: What is your process like for you going from imagination to creating?
E: When I envision something and how cool or beautiful it could be, my mind sets the impossible. I try to apply my favorite characteristics to what I’m creating. Like, for the song I’m writing for A21, I immediately knew what I wanted it to sound like because I envisioned the finished product - even the music video!
ATD: Do you face any challenges when you come up with a creative idea?
E: I love to plan ahead but sometimes plans don’t go my way. My mind is filled with things I want to do but I have to look around and say, “Okay, there are other people here. I need to include them. I can’t do everything myself.” You have to accept that people’s differences might mean they can do things better than you can, or sometimes they can do different things that you can’t do.
ATD: Do you think that makes it hard to collaborate or work with other people sometimes?
E: It’s definitely hard sometimes! I do like to take control, I always have, and I don’t like to feel left out. It’s hard for me because sometimes I do feel left out. But then I have to say, “Emma, this isn’t your moment to shine. You need to celebrate these people for what they’ve accomplished and it doesn’t always have to be about you.”
ATD: Tell us more about the story of your song, “Light the Night,” for A21.
E: 12-year-old girls (and sometimes boys) are the number one target for human trafficking. I’m 12. Where I live is a bubble: the world, the US, Texas...is a bubble. We think someone else will stand up for it. We think, “I’m safe.” But you don’t know who’s going to make that change and stand up for girls being sold into sex slavery, being taken from their homes and abused in such a sick, sick way.
One morning my mom woke up from a dream, and she never gets dreams. She knew this was what God wanted us to do. That same night I was thinking about how much I missed when I used to sing with a group that raised money for trafficked victims and then I thought, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if I could do that myself?” So we just started brainstorming and eventually we wrote some lyrics. I want to make a difference; I know I’m 12 but I want to make a difference.
ATD: You knew this one was coming - what do you want to be when you grow up?
E: Well, there are many things! I’m one of those people who can’t decide. I know for sure I want to be an actress and a famous singer, but I also want to be a worship leader and go to Africa and run a marathon. There are so many things I want to be when I grow up! I know God doesn’t take away dreams, but He may say, “This isn’t what I have for you right now.” Really, I’m kind of depending on Him to close the door - but that doesn’t mean I can’t go on knocking!
ATD: What do you love about being 12-years-old? What is the best thing about being exactly where you are in life right now?
E: My life is made up of one big fairy tale. I try to make everything as fairy tale-ish and fun as possible: I go to a restaurant and pretend I’m a princess ordering food! I can get bored easily so I say, “Okay, mind, snap into imagination mode!”
But yes, I’ve worried about fitting in and having the latest and greatest. As a 12-year-old I have to tell myself, “Okay, you’re 12. You don’t need to worry about this stuff. You have food on the table, a roof over your head, and clothes on your body. You have everything you need to be satisfied.” That’s the greatest part about being 12: I get to develop my mindset into thinking there’s more to life than having the Vineyard Vines shirt (note from Brittany - I definitely had to Google this), the Vera Bradley backpack, there’s more to life than having the iPhone 6, a huge house, fancy car, a boyfriend… and it’s hard because I want to fit in. I don’t want to be left out.
But that’s when I have to remember that my differences can make a difference in other people. It’s so cool that I get to make a difference in people’s lives because of my differences.
ATD: What is that like for you at school?
E: At my school people think if you have a boyfriend you are the coolest person in the world, or if you wear this everyone will be your friend. I’ve wanted people to like me, I want the cool kids to pay attention to me, but I know who I am. I know I don’t want a boyfriend and I know I don’t like that shirt. But that’s the cool thing about being 12: you get to be yourself and start making a difference. Yes, I freak out if someone talks about me in a weird way or gossips, but people look up to you if you have a smile on your face and take it one day at a time. People will admire your life if you’re different. I had to learn the hard way because I’d come home crying and my mom would say, “Emma, listen - you don’t need to be like everyone else. Perspective! You need to have perspective because that’s what’s going to save you in life.”
ATD: Last thing! It’s easy to be excited about your weekends and special days, but when a regular Monday comes along, how do you find something to look forward to?
E: Personally, school is not my favorite. I don’t think it’s anyone’s favorite! It can be, it’s just not mine. I’ve had to work hard because math and science do not come easy to me. So it all depends on what I tell myself when I wake up. If I’m grumpy walking down stairs in the morning my mom will say, “Let’s choose a happy heart!” So I think what I look forward to most on any regular day is that I get to choose my attitude. I’m not trying to be corny, but the fact that we have a choice to choose joy is really cool because God didn’t make us robots! We have a choice. It’s fun to wake up and say, “The birds are singing and the sun in shining! Let’s take this day on!” Stuff happens every day that we don’t take the time to notice, especially me. It’s easy to think it’s just another day - go to work, go to school, do homework, go to dance, go to bed. Things happen but we won’t notice because we get so confined. So that’s the fun part of waking up every day saying, “I’m going to notice the things that pop out, the things that make this day different.”