The five years since I fell back in love with dolls, after a several year hiatus, have been a long, ever evolving journey. I’ve learned so much about myself, about life, and I’ve grown so much as a collector. Jess McConnell was a doll that I knew of since the moment she first debuted in 2006, but it took me ten years to finally add her to my collection. Although I’m certain I would have adored her as a teenager, I must say that I am glad that I waited so long to purchase her. Since first falling in love with her a decade ago, the way I approach my life and my doll collection has truly transformed, and I feel that I can genuinely appreciate her now in ways that I simply was not capable of back then. All the bumps, blocks, and bends in the journey of life are comparable to all the self doubt, over analytical behavior, and mass doll casualties that I experienced in my doll collection, and are what make my doll hobby what it is today. Jess truly could not have joined my doll family at a better time.
For most of my time an avid doll lover, I berated myself constantly about the size of my doll population. Even as young as the age of seven years old, I often found myself grouping my dollies into piles, imagining what it would feel like if I had less of them. Even though each one was adored, loved, and appreciated in his or her own way, I still couldn’t help but be lured under the false impression that there was some "perfect" number of dolls to own. This even extended to my American Girl collection. Every year more or less, since I was six years old, Mom and Dad let me pick out an American Girl doll for my birthday and Christmas. While I always had the option to buy clothes and accessories for my dollies, instead I always opted to get another doll. And so in a very short span of time, my American Girl collection became rather large–between my sister and I, we had sixteen dolls. Having hoards of dolls was what felt natural to me. I was never the girl that could settle on just one. I liked to have a taste of everything. But my constant need to compare myself to other people often led me to condemn myself for loving variety. My sister was what I like to call a "one doll woman." She learned early on that Molly McIntire was the only American Girl doll she truly enjoyed collecting, so she pawned off the others on me. In all truthfulness, I could never pick just one American Girl doll. I love them in their own way, and even though I have favorites, they all mean something completely unique and special to me. While I never gave away or got rid of any of my childhood American Girl dolls (thank goodness, because I made that mistake multiple times with Barbies), I did carry around a needless amount of guilt and regret. I squandered so much time fantasizing about how I would redo my collection if I had to start over–which two, maybe three I would buy again. I had this misguided idea that less somehow meant better, and that I was greedy or unfocused having more than a few. This greatly impacted how I felt about not only myself, but also my dolls. There were some of my girls who never really got the opportunity to be unconditionally loved by me, until I was an adult, because I harbored so many ridiculous emotions of collector’s remorse.
Had I never phased out dolls for five years when I was a teenager, I can say with almost one hundred percent certainty that I would have gotten Jess McConnell. She would have either been my birthday or Christmas gift in 2006 (more likely my birthday gift, since I would have wanted to get Elizabeth when Colleen got Emily). For a fleeting moment, my whole world would have revolved around this Asian beauty. But I am almost equally as sure of the fact that I would have eventually punished myself for "hoarding yet another doll." It’s really a shame, when I think about what could have been, and what I would have actually done with it. On the one hand, I can imagine all the childish adventures Colleen and I would have embarked on with my new Jess doll and her old, battered Molly. We would have spent hours sprawled out on the living room carpet styling their hair, climbing over the fallen trees in the woods of our backyard, holding our beloved dollies, and taking them out to restaurants and on car rides as we always did. But the ugly truth behind it all would have been that I honestly would have spent far more time obsessing in the fact that I now had one more American Girl doll, when I already had fourteen "too many." In those days when my obsessive compulsive, anxious tendencies were at their peak, I would have been tormented by the fact that Jess’s black hair got frizzy and I’m sure that many tears would have been shed between my fits of rage over it. This theoretical childhood Jess doll would probably be bald from my constant need to brush and wash her hair to combat the frizziness, that I didn’t know how to fix back then. In the end, my need for the perfect sized collection and a flawless doll would have over ridden the joy I initially felt about having an Asian American Girl doll, a dream I always had.
The honest reality of who I used to be as a person and as a doll collector is not pretty. While in the deepest recesses of my heart and soul, I was always truly passionate about dolls, and they were my friends, my own desire to constantly nit pick and self loathe was far greater, and often left me far more depressed and anxious than I already was that time. This is why I am so very glad that I waited ten years to finally add Jess to my collection. The person that I am today welcomed my slightly tattered, secondhand Jess with open arms and a warm heart. It took me a long time to see it, but I was the obstacle in my own way of happiness. Life may not have always been fair to me, but my own dark feelings manifested my life into something so much worse than it ever had to be. I realized that the reason I collected dolls in the first place was because they were beautiful to look at, fun to dress up and make things for, relieved stress, and most of all made me smile. All of the beautiful, uplifting, positive things dolls contributed by my life used to be overshadowed. But during these past few years, I’ve taken a long time to self reflect, and I’ve come to see what really matters. Somehow I found that I had the key to happiness within myself all these years, but I was just blind to its existence. I can honestly say that I’ve never felt freer and more alive than I do right now, and it seems that every day, I only feel more happy and grateful.
For me, my Jess doll embodies everything that I’ve learned these past five years. I came to see how important it was to live in the moment, and not to pick everything apart needlessly. What ultimately prompted me to buy Jess was quite spontaneous really. I was searching on eBay for Kirsten’s clothes, since she had just gone to the doll hospital in April. But on the first page of results, was a random, out of place Jess doll. I remember this particular one was very low priced, and was a "Buy It Now" option, which always tempts me far more than a bid (what can I say, patience is not a virtue I practice). The seed had been planted in my head, and for the next month or two, the idea was bubbling in my head. As it was, I had learned just how much I truly adored the Girl of the Year line, when I fell in love with random dolls like Grace and Lindsey earlier that year. On top of that, Jess was the last Girl of the Year doll, I really remember being excited about when she came out. 2006 was the last year I openly looked at American Girl catalogues, and walked into toy aisles at the stores. By my sophomore year in high school, it was as if dolls never existed in my life. And let’s not forget my life long obsession for Asian/ethnic dolls–Sun Jewel Kira was after all my first store bought Barbie.
The more time that has passed, the less time I find it takes for me to make up my mind about something. The last few American Girl dolls I added to my collection just sort of happened, without tons of forethought. But unlike the regret and guilt I felt as a kid, I’ve only enjoyed these new dollies. In fact, I feel even closer to these dolls than I do to some of the ones I grew up with, that I shunned for many years. Every time I walk into my bedroom, I greet Jess with a warm smile and a friendly hello. Seeing her sit at my childhood table, on her own special chair makes me feel a sense of warmth and happiness that I never imagined I would. Jess’s name always pops up into conversations with my sister. Whenever I’m looking at craft supplies, she is one of the dolls that most inspires me. I constantly gravitate towards flowers and charms that remind me of Jess’s beach theme. I simply cannot wait until I finally take her out to get her ears pierced, so I can make Jess her very own, special earrings. I love braiding her gorgeous black hair and smelling the traces of fragrant conditioner left over from her bath. Whenever I see Girl of Today/Truly Me outfits online, I always fantasize about which ones would look amazing one Jess, and I’m sure that in the future, I’ll buy several with her in mind. Jess may not have been a doll like Elizabeth that I rhapsodized openly about for years, but in my heart, I always knew deep down that she was missing from my collection. Even though as I am writing this, Jess has not been mine long, she could not possibly feel more like my own than she already does. She’s a small piece of my childhood that I never got to enjoy back then, but that means the world to me now. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how long you own a doll, the length of time you wanted them for, or the calculation you put behind their purchase…what it all boils down to is the moment we live in now, what we choose to do with it, and how we choose to perceive it. Jess in her short time here, has already become a cherished friend, has truly made me happy, and has enhanced my collection that much more…and I’ve realized that this is all because I chose it to be this way, because I allowed only these positive emotions to attach to my Jess doll.
Tagged: , american girl , american girl doll , pleasant company , american girl of the year , girl of the year , goty , goty 2006 , girl of the year jess , american girl jess , jess mcconnell