Seattle, sometime in the early 2000’s. I was a teen-child visiting my Aunt. She was well traveled and well versed in big city life.
We went with friends to see Beauty and Beast at the Paramount. The play let out late but as we exited I noticed the large groups of people gathered around. City Life. At the time I was living in Big Bear, CA, a small beautiful mountain town with a population of approximately 12.
It was after 9pm and there were still lights on and people out, and noise, and life—I instantly fell in love with the city. As we walked through the crowds my Aunt leaned down and whispered in my ear something to the effect of, “put your chin up, look forward, walk determined.”
She’s always been full of great little life-lessons like this. “Walk with your chin up. Look forward.”
She has taught me things, things about life, about love, about commitment and growth, things that I hope to pass on to my daughter. She has taught be to be strong, to look forward.
My whole life I’ve watched this woman, a female professional in a mans world, the breadwinner for her home. This watching, learning, absorbing, has created in me this fearlessness, to do, see, go. I’ve always felt like the world was at my finger-tips, mine for the taking. I just had to reach out and grab.
I grew up on that “go-for-it girl-power” mentality.
The sky was the limit. I could do and be anything I wanted. I whisper these things into my baby girl’s ear. “Reach baby, the sky is the limit.” I want her to believe that. I want her to know that she is equal to her big brother. I want her to pursue her dreams, to set goals, to work hard and to get there, where ever her “there” is.
I want other things for her as well: I want her to be comfortable in her own skin. I want this little girl to be able to stand and walk proudly. I do not want her to shrink away. I want her to be able to smile in public without fearing negative attention or harassment from the opposite sex. I want her to know that she can lead. She can lead in her school, her church, her community, her country.
I want her to live in a world and country of equality.
We aren’t there yet. She’s not yet two, she has time before the first derogatory remark is hurled her way. But what about all the other girls? What about my grandmother who believed she’d live to see the first female president? What about my friend who recently discovered that her pay grade was a full two levels lower than her male counter-parts? What about the women pushing up against the glass ceiling having to prove themselves twice as much? What about me, who half-way through my first pregnancy was told by my boss to take my maternity leave, not because my work was suffering but because my pregnant body made him uncomfortable?
I’m an idealist, this I know. I blame my Aunts, my Grandmother, my Mother. I blame my French professor and Women’s study professor. I blame my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Anderson, and then my High School teachers, and then my first boss, and just about every woman who dared to rise, to achieve, to aspire. I just can’t help it. If they could, why can’t I, why can’t you?
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
I look to the future, in all it’s uncertainty, and dare to be brave, to put my chin up and walk forward. I listen to, and reflect on, the voices of the women around me, the ones with wisdom and stories to share, the ones that encourage me to take those steps. Let’s take them together.
As always, be well my friends.
photo cred: Carrie McGuire Photography