International Women’s Day.
I often talk about my beliefs of the equal rights for women. I keep it no secret that while I have chosen what many consider a “traditional” role for a woman (stay-at-home mom, household manager, chauffeur…take your pick of the many of things I do), it is exactly that…A CHOICE.
A choice that I realize is a privilege.
And a choice, at varying moments over the years, with which I have struggled.
Why I Celebrate.
The question becomes… why do I celebrate?
But perhaps to fully understand why I celebrate International Women’s Day, my own background may help, lest you think I only speak from a place of current privilege.
Many of you know that I just finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I found that I could relate in so many ways even though there were plenty of ways in which I couldn’t.
I recognized my dad in her father. Not in the erratic, alcoholic side of Rex Walls. My parents drink once a year, if that. It was the genius and nonconformist side of Rex. It was also his belief in his daughter.
My dad once told me that in the world there are leaders and that there are followers and that I was a leader
…and I believed him.
My parents never once told me that there was something that I couldn’t achieve.
I don’t know if I had lofty expectations.
Surely, I didn’t dream that someday I’d be sitting, in the middle of an optical illusion, on a bridge in Paris, with my own daughter.
I just did what I was good at…doing well in school.
I never assumed that I wouldn’t go to college. It felt like a given that I would. And so I did. I graduated high school in 1994, I was sixteen and the thought of heading away seemed overwhelming. I decided that I would attend community college and maybe by the time I finished I’d know what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I was the first person in my immediate family to attend college. Actually, I was the first to graduate high school in a traditional manner. I graduated sixth in my class and since the local community college awarded a full tuition scholarship for 60 credit hours to the highest academics in the school…and everyone else ranking above me was heading off somewhere else…I received the award.
In the past, I mentioned that I also received a scholarship from a local Women’s Club, which I used to pay for my books. I was also awarded enough financial aid, that it took care of all my other costs.
Due to the fact that I am extremely uncomfortable with new situations, I never met with an academic advisor. I just moved through the list of requirements for an Associates of the Arts degree.
I remember wanting to quit college. I remember telling my dad that I wanted to quit. And he told me “just quit then”. Now I’m sure most of you are thinking this is bad advice. However, my dad knew me, and he knew that I didn’t give up once I set my mind to something. Through tears, I told him that I couldn’t quit. He told me that I could and that the reality was that I didn’t WANT to quit.
He was right.
I was on the Dean’s List and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa (not the first time I was asked because…again…uncomfortable).
After checking off boxes, I finished up in the fall of 1995, after a year and half, and put in for graduation for my A.A. I was barely 18.
Take Your Daughter To Work.
The spring before that graduation, my aunt had taken me with her for Take Your Daughter To Work Day. She worked for a Dermatologist. I spent the day there and I loved it. He had a transition happening, so he hired me part time on a temporary basis. I mostly worked the front desk, but I did get to be an assistant in a hair transplant surgery!
First Real Job.
I had always loved math and science, but then I knew that I loved the medical field. The temporary basis came to an end. I didn’t know what I wanted to study. Plus, I still wasn’t prepared to leave home so I got a job at the hospital, working in a Rehab unit. I was fascinated by the Physical Therapists and talked with them about the schooling. Dissecting cadavers and the burn unit made me nervous. I know now that I would have been able to handle things, but hindsight is 20/20.
Back to College.
I decided I would become a Pharmacist. So I got a part-time job (along with maintaining my full-time job) at a 24 hour pharmacy and worked two 10 hour shifts over the weekend as a pharmacy tech. Then, I put in my notice at the hospital and re-enrolled at the community college in 1997.
However, what I didn’t know and hadn’t been told, was that once you put in for graduation at the community college, you aren’t eligible for financial aid at the community college level any longer. A person in my life at the time helped me scrape together the money for that semester, but I had to withdraw from Biology because of the schedule and I needed to get another job to pay for life. I finished out my Chemistry and Trigonometry classes, but by the end had decided I was not going to become a Pharmacist.
I did not like the automation of the medicine.I would have loved it back in mortar and pestle days. As it was my favorite part was learning how to read the meniscus.
The second part-time job I got during that semester in college turned into a full-time job. It was at a MRI facility. I thought about going back to school to be a MRI tech, but then life happened along. I switched jobs. Met my husband. Came back to that job when the day shift opened. Then I had my first child in 2000.
You might think that I easily went into being a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t. I wanted to be one, but I’d also never had a point in life where I wasn’t earning my own money. I’d been working since I was 14. When my son was 6 or 7 months old, I took a job in the nursery at the local YMCA because I could bring him with me.
Stay At Home Mom.
And then I got pregnant with my second son. I had complications in the beginning of my first pregnancy. Pains that made them check to make sure it wasn’t ectopic. It obviously wasn’t, but I was told to take it easy to avoid a miscarriage. When the pains started with the second pregnancy, the doctor advocated that I even avoid carrying around the oldest too much. He was 9 months old, so complete avoidance wasn’t going to happen. Since I couldn’t pick up any kids in the nursery and the diaper changes of other people’s kids were doing a number on my morning sickness, I resigned.
We would add our youngest, Miss Sunshine, in 2003. I sometimes thought about going back to school, but I also loved being home with my children. In 2010, the nearby community college changed to a state college and added some Bachelor’s programs.
Back to School.
That was how we found ourselves moving over to Stuart, Florida. I had many reasons for wanting to go back to school. But if I’m honest, one of them was because I wanted my children to realize that I was intelligent. It may seem silly, but that means something to me. It was my one claim to success in my formative years. I also wanted them to know that different choices are always possible. I enrolled for the Bachelor of Biology with a concentration on Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (I don’t know if that’s still offered), but even with 68 credit hours, I still was missing some lower level classes. So after 13+ years of being out of college, I took Chemistry and Statistics. When I aced them, I felt a real sense of pride.
At the time my dream was to go to work for some of the local biomedical facilities. They were touting the Treasure Coast as the Research Coast. If you don’t know…I love research. However, I came to realize that it’s mostly interns in many of those places. I thought I’d supplement the Biology degree with a way to actually earn income. Even though I wanted to work in a medical laboratory, the pay for that degree isn’t that well. I started considering a Physician’s Assistant or Nurse Practitioner, so I thought I’d get a nursing degree. After taking Anatomy and Physiology I & II, Nutrition, and some Psychology based classes, I changed my mind. I believe nursing is a calling…and I have not been called. About that time, life changed. We moved to Virginia. I wasn’t about to pay out of state tuition.
After a year, I sent for my transcript papers. Where they still sit in the filing cabinet. Unopened. I decided not to return to school because I found other passions and we also have three teenagers to put through college. Sometimes I worry that people think less of me because of my educational background.
I have learned to live with that.
I don’t know exactly how many credit hours I have. Probably over 90. I think less than 100.
I’m not sure because I haven’t broken the seal.
They sit there…waiting…in case I change my mind.
Being a Woman.
That is one of the reasons I celebrate International Women’s Day.
Because nowhere in that story was the decision not mine. Nothing about being a woman changed my options.
It is because of the way paved by other women that I had the freedom to make each of those choices. There wasn’t any choice which was prevented by the mere fact that I am a woman.
I’m sure there are many out there who would have made different choices. And that is okay.
Isn’t it wonderful to have that option?
Not everyone does.
Which is why women will keep fighting to be seen as equal.
Having a Daughter.
I also celebrate because I have a daughter. I often use her as a muse in my photography. Whether its captured unbeknownst to her as in the shots of her in Paris or when she willingly helps me create my vision like in the canal shot in Amsterdam, I am always in awe of her.
Miss Sunshine has dreams and visions and goals.
She heartily pursues them without any regard to her gender.
She is even stronger than I consider myself to be.
Most of my regular readers know that Miss Sunshine plays soccer. She has played since the age of seven. We went through a hard transition when she was 13 and the U.S. Youth Soccer changed the age guidelines. She went from being the oldest on the team to being one of the youngest.
The transition also made her miss the first year that the field transitions from being 8v8 to 11v11. She found herself moved from a forward to a defender and she worked hard to learn the role. I live the behind the scenes. I know all the dynamics of the shift. But she did what she does, she persevered.
I love this shot of her during warm-ups. They were playing one of their league competitors and decided to put on war paint.
It reminds me of the quote:
Fate whispers to the warrior, “you cannot withstand the storm”
The warrior whispers back, “I am the storm”. -unknown
I have taught my daughter that if she finds a glass ceiling, she should break it.
She should pursue her dreams with no regard to the naysayers.
I have spoken in the past about the fact that at this time she wants to be an Engineer. She’s 14 and that may change many times before she decides on a path. It may even change many times while on a path.
There is great freedom in that reality.
Locally we have some part-time specialty high schools. She has applied to two and while she is waiting to hear from one, she has been accepted into the Engineering Based one.
Part of application process was to come up with an invention that could be patented and describe the materials, cost, building process, and usage.
While I’m not sharing her invention…I have to say…I love how her mind works.
So today I celebrate all those women before me who fought and all those women who continue to fight to be acknowledged as equals.
Happy International Women’s Day!
Let your light shine!