I have a SISTER who wears her heart on her sleeve, who is emotional, and raw, and vulnerable. She feels life happening around her and responds to it. These are qualities that I have never been good at displaying, but through watching her, I have learned to be more in tune to the things that make me feel something and to let myself feel them.
I have a SISTER who knows how to have fun. She reminds me to take a break from the seriousness of life. My sister just graduated nursing school. I have seen the emotional, financial, and intellectual struggles of a college student, but I have also watched how a college student can remind you to enjoy life. I have loved seeing her pictures and videos of her and her friends giggling together during a night out. I have loved watching my sister experience life. She reminds me to not just watch others enjoying life, but to say yes to girls’ nights and weekend trips with friends. She reminds to embrace life and the people I share it with.
I have FRIENDS who are amazing mothers. I have seen them love their children wholly and entirely, even in the hardest of times. I have seen their love through their patience, guidance, and nurturing. They have taught me that motherhood is hard but worth every ounce of effort we put into it. They have loved my child as their own, as I have done with theirs. My friends have loved me and have been through when parenting has been difficult. Through watching my friends with their children, I have seen the pure love of motherhood. My friends have reminded me that it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s okay to have fears and doubts; this is all part of being a parent. They have taught me that as long as I am mothering with love, I am being the best mother I can be.
I have ADULT WOMEN who are best friends with my mother. Growing up, I lacked a father figure, but man, I did not lack mother figures. Through them, I have seen what true friendship looks like. These women have shown up at our door at any time of day or night, always carrying a bottle of wine, and have looked at my mom and asked, “What do you need? How can I help?” I have seen them put everything else aside and just be there for my mom during some of the worst times in her life. I have seen them talk and give advice, and I have seen them just sit quietly and listen, sometimes for hours. Through them, I have learned that friendship is about making time for those who mean the most to you.
I have a SISTER-IN-LAW who is going to school for her doctorate degree. Through her, I have seen the power a woman can have, both intellectually and physically. She is confident and strong. I have seen her excel in her schooling and continue educating herself to become who she wants to be. She wants to help children. I have seen what it looks like to genuinely want to help people and not stop until you are in a position to do so. She isn’t going to let anyone stop her. She exemplifies confidence and strong-will, and through her, I have learned I can do all things through believing in my own potential.
I have a MOTHER-IN-LAW who is the most selfless person I know. There has never been a time where I have seen her put herself before anyone else. She sacrifices her time and her energy to ensure everyone around her is happy, and she is the first one to lend a helping hand. My mother-in-law is the example of a Godly woman; she always sees the good in all people. She whole-heartedly accepted my son and I into her family, and through her, I have seen the type of mother and wife I want to be.
I have TEACHERS and PROFESSORS who have given me an education. They have taught me how to be open-minded, and how to entertain an idea, think about it, and form my own beliefs. My professors taught me the meaning of feminism and have been true examples of leadership. These women have influenced my career, and have taught me that women have a place at home, in the workplace, in academia, and in all other areas of society. These women have taught me to continuing rising and achieving. They have taught me there is no ceiling I can’t break through.
I have CO-WORKERS who have quickly become some of my closest friends. I spend a majority of my week with them, and they make my time at work joyful. They let me know I am not alone in my work, and they support me in it. As a group, we have gone through difficult transitions, and we have had to adapt and learn together. My co-workers have taught me the value of humor when going through not-so-great situations. I have learned the value of being able to laugh at the small things (and the inappropriate things). Some of the hardest times I have laughed have been at the office, and it is my co-workers who have taught me the immense effect that laughter can have on your well-being.
I have an AUNT who had to go through the traumatizing illness of breast cancer, and I have witnessed her battle through treatments, medications, surgeries, and countless others obstacles that go along with having cancer. And do you know how she got through it? She laughed. She made jokes. She continued going to the beach and taking overseas vacations; she kept living life to the fullest. While everyone else was looking at her cancer as this horrible, terrible thing, she chose to let her cancer teach her that life is short. I know that sounds like a cliche, but my aunt now knows the truth behind that phrase. She has lived with the fear of having her life end too soon. Her life was threatened, and she chose to keep smiling, laughing, and loving others. She has shown me the value of life. She has taught me how to live fulfilled and happy.
I have an AUNT who has taught me about honesty. There are people who see bluntness and directness as negative qualities, but I see the ability to be truly honest with yourself and others as a gift. So many people put on masks and pretend the be something they’re not. Not her. She’s aware of how she feels, and she’s able to express these feelings. She doesn’t try to hide them; her actions match her words. I can always count on her to tell it like it is. She doesn’t feel the need to please everyone, as many people do. I find myself getting caught up in the idea of, “what will others think of me?” And she reminds me to be true to myself, express myself, speak my mind, and live life unashamed.
I have MOTHER who raised three daughters on her own. As an adult, I now know how much my mother went through when my sisters and I were children. But, we never knew about the hard times as children because my mother just kept going. She kept doing what she needed to do to make sure we had food in our mouths and a roof over our head. She worked multiple jobs and still found time to help us with our homework. My mom made sure we knew what we were capable of, and she taught us that to get where we wanted to be in life, we had to work for it. She showed me how to face adversity, and I learned so much about resiliency through her example. I am a strong woman because of my mother.
I have GRANDMOTHERS who have defined sacrifice. They raised children in a time where it wasn’t easy to raise children. My grandmothers have told me stories of their struggles, and I questions whether I would have made the right decisions had I been in their shoes. My grandmothers worked, took care of a household, and raised children. They spent time with and spoiled their grandchildren and made sure they knew they were important. They are examples of extraordinary women. They have lived full lives, I hope that one day, I can look back on my life and know I did good in the world, just as they have.
I am surrounded by powerful women. I gather strength from these women. I am inspired by these women. They continue to remind me what friendship, love, and fellowship look like. I am mesmerized by the connection women can have with one another, the community they can share. When I look at my life up to this point, I am in awe of how these connections have affected me.
People want to give me praise for the woman I am, and I want to tell them about all of the women in my life who have shaped and molded me, without even knowing they were doing so. I want tell them all of the stories of perseverance, dedication, sacrifice, and selflessness that I have seen from these women. I want to say, “Look at these women! Do you see their beauty, their strength, their integrity, their love?”
Don’t ever underestimate the power one person can hold.
Growing up without a father figure has given me a certain perspective; the perspective that women carry great strength within them, and that strength is spread throughout all of their movements and interactions. That strength reaches innumerable people, and I consider myself extremely lucky to be one who has been touched by it.
When I am struggling with life, I am reminded of them, and it gives me the courage to keep going.
These women have been the foundation upon which I have learned how to be a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a niece, a daughter, a granddaughter, and ultimately, just a good woman. These women hold incredible power within themselves, and I hope they understand the difference that power has made, not just in my life, but in the world.