(Nathaniel Grann/The Washington Post)

Sylvia Orli

45, Arlington, museum specialist

My elementary school believed in my greatness. That is, it believed in everyone’s greatness, and as a 6-year-old, I took this as a personal affirmation that I could do wonderful things. The school had a kiln and a book publishing club, so in addition to writing several masterful books (such as “I’m a Lucky Caterpillar”), I made pottery pieces. My favorite was Little Man, a black and red clay person, with eyes I delicately formed with my pinkie. I put Little Man on my dresser in a special place.

Of course, I grew up and realized life was not going to surround me with recognition of my greatness. I didn’t make the grade, get the job, hold on to the success or become the amazing person my 6-year-old self had imagined.

A few years back, my father gave me a box of my childhood things, and in it, carefully wrapped in newspaper, was Little Man. Opening it, I was taken back to a time when life was magical and I could do just about anything.

I put Little Man on my dresser. Now when I go to bed every night, there he is. He reminds me that I can feel that way about myself, regardless of what life brings. Forty years should not change that.

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