Na na na-na naaa….na na na-na na naaa….WAY COOL!

If you’re a female child of the 90s, like me, you might have grown up knowing – just KNOWING – that Clarissa Darling was your bestie for life.

I hate a lot of television on today. Shows that encourage bad behavior (like those stupid housewives shows) or celebrate excess (like Keeping Up With The Kardashians) can really make you hate the turn society is taking. Not all TV is bad, though, and I’m not one of those people that believes in shunning television completely. Sure, I love reading a lot more than I love TV-watching, but it’s a medium, just like all the other mediums, and it has a lot of things to offer.

Clarissa Darling, though, she was in a category all of her own. For those of you that never watched “Clarissa Explains It All” – first of all, how dare you, and second of all, hop on Hulu and start streaming that ish – it was a show about a girl named Clarissa growing up. That’s really it. But Clarissa Darling was like no other – she was an extremely intelligent (coded her own computer programs), fiercely individualistic (those clothes, tho) and independent (what boyfriend?) girl who didn’t give a shit what people thought. You know how Sabrina Spellman was constantly worrying about what the people at school were thinking of her? Not so with the younger, more secure Clarissa.

Clarissa lived with her mom, Janet, dad, Marshall, and young Republican brother Ferguson. The cool thing was that the show was narrated by her and she constantly broke the fourth wall: she used to speak to “us”, the viewing audience, by talking to the camera and telling us what was going on in her life at the moment and how she was feeling. Clarissa was, bar none, the best female role model for a young girl to have, ever. Besides having awesome parents, I truly do feel like a lot of who I am was shaped by watching Clarissa. Here’s what was unique: far from being the usual timid, insecure and socially awkward teenage girl, Clarissa was a complete and total badass. She never cared about what anyone thought, she wore whatever she wanted, said whatever she wanted, and did whatever she wanted. A show that I used to watch at the same time as Clarissa was Saved By The Bell. The choices for female role model that I had on that show were either a neurotic superfeminist, an aspiring fashionista who only ever got to say a few lines or Kelly Kapowski, everyone’s dream girl. I’m actually thankful that I developed the love for Clarissa when I did, otherwise I’d be worried about whether my hair looked okay and be wearing white keds and short skirts all the time.

So Clarissa clearly was more than just a television character to me. She actually taught me that it was okay to quit my job and travel the world – and build a life that I loved – long before I ever knew I would do those things. Clarissa made me believe that it was okay to do what makes you happy and shun what everyone thinks you “should” be doing. Quitting your job to travel full-time is one of those big things that people don’t often understand. Clarissa, though, wouldn’t have cared.

In honor of that, I’d like to celebrate all the ways Clarissa Darling made me a better human.

What Clarissa Darling Taught Me About Life

1. It’s okay to wear stripes and polka dots together.

From Clarissa, I not only learned that it was okay to constantly be dressed like I was going out in my own house, I also learned that stripes and polka dots together are a totally acceptable outfit choice. It wasn’t about the stripes and polka dots, though, it was about being myself. We never saw Clarissa have any type of “expected” meltdown like other girls her age did over a boy, or a dress, or a pair of shoes, or make-up or friends. All we ever saw was that she was completely, 100% self-assured and happy with who she was. For an eleven-year-old that was just starting to come into her own personality, this was an invaluable lesson. She taught me how to react in different situations and how always to be myself, and that being myself was perfectly okay. For instance, I actually really hate odd numbers. For no reason. This is the strangest character quirk of mine and even I think it’s weird. But Clarissa taught me that it was fine to be myself and have character quirks. After all, she had a best friend who could never use the front door and instead climbed into her window through a ladder.

2. It’s important to value friendships.

Okay, so speaking of Sam – who climbed through Clarissa’s window seemingly every day – Clarissa taught me that friendships should be valued and nurtured. The show occasionally featured some of Clarissa’s other friends but Sam was a staple. Not only was he always willing to help her get around Ferguson’s latest plan for world domination, but he was also there to bail her out when he needed help. And the relationship went two ways – Clarissa once tried to help Sam devise a plan for getting out of playing football. Their relationship was tight and hilarious and awesome – and he was a BOY! Those are important lessons for any young female – and some of my best friendships today are very Clarissa-and-Sam-esque.

3. Don’t hide your smarts.

Am I not sure how a situation will turn out? No problem, I’ll just singlehandedly design a computer simulation to show me the possible outcomes. Clarissa was portrayed as a really intelligent kid. Although we never heard too much about the actual schooling in school, we did see her come up with the most creative solutions to her problems. She designed computer programs, created gadgets to torture Ferg Face and was basically a genius. This show celebrated female intelligence, rather than focusing on female beauty or neurosis or anything else.

4. Know your enemy.

So, parents are sometimes a little harsh. Especially in the teen years. Clarissa, though, knew where to focus her efforts: the dreaded little brother. Clarissa’s parents were actually really strange: her mom, Janet, was always cooking some extra healthy food or other that none of the family really preferred. And she was always wanting Clarissa to get involved in her causes. Clarissa, though, didn’t bitch at all. She normally went along with both Janet and Marshall and ate whatever food happened to be on the table because she couldn’t be distracted from her goal of the moment (normally it had something to do with Ferguson). And Ferguson was a brat – so much of Clarissa’s time was spent fighting with him. The moral of the story? Don’t make enemies where there aren’t any. Focus your efforts where they are best utilized.

5. If shit doesn’t work out, shrug it off and try again.

Clarissa’s life wasn’t perfect. She went through her fair share of ups and downs and sometimes things didn’t work out like she would have wanted. The important thing, though, is Clarissa’s reactions to these moments. Mostly, she just shrugged it off and got ready for the next day. We never saw her completely lose her shit about something not going her way. What kid couldn’t use this lesson?

More than anything, Clarissa was perfect at a time in my life when I was young, whiny, not sure of myself, and not sure of anything else. I’m glad I found her as a role model when I did. She taught me a lot of life lessons – the most important of which was to be true to whom I am and never apologize for it.

What Clarissa Darling Taught Me About Traveling The World