To the women who raised me and the women who raised them. To the women who lived on my street, taught at my school, worked at the stores I visited. To the women who came before me and suffered and loved and lived their lives to the very best of their ability. The women who came before me and fought so I could have the privileges I too often take for granted. To the millions of women across the planet who are still fighting, most against too many additional odds.
To all the beautiful women living in this world.
Today is for you.
International Women’s Day reminds me to be thankful for these women – all women. It reminds me to take a second to myself to be grateful for the woman who raised me.
Raising a child as a single parent is a terrifying prospect. I’m nearly twenty and right now the thought of having a child frightens me. The idea of looking after a baby by myself is a nightmare – how do you make it into a proper human? How do you teach it all the things it needs to know?
It seems impossible – but somehow you did it.
You taught me love from the moment I was born. I have always been loved. Surrounded by that magic kind of love that can give you strength and makes you laugh. The love that comes from sacrifice and generosity and keeping your promises. Love that makes you so happy the world changes colour. Love that bends but never breaks, that rises but never waivers. You taught me to love in a way that’s worth fighting for. To love with every bit of passion and honesty that I possess – you taught me that from the way you love me.
I remember that in our house crying was never a sign of weakness. I was told, strongly, when I did something wrong but my feelings have always been respected. There has never been a secret too big to tell you, nothing I can perceive happening that I wouldn’t be able to (over)share. You listen to me. You taught me honesty, bravery, emotional strength.
I began to trust my own judgement but also became aware of the many times I got things wrong. You showed me that it’s okay to be wrong as long as you’re willing to learn how to put things right. Because of you I know how to stand up for myself and the things I believe in. You taught me confidence until words like ‘bossy’ and ‘bitch’ stopped unpinning all the hard work I had done. Until they became things I could handle rather than words to be scared of.
From you, I learnt how to forgive others and myself. I learnt to be proud of the things that made me who I was, my heritage, my family and our spirit, together.
I learnt a lot about good food – like a lot. But I also learnt about good people. I know that we are all human. Some less educated, many less privileged, a lot who desperately need help. I am privileged in so many ways and I am grateful to you for showing me that. For teaching me where my place is so I could learn how to help. For teaching me that we should all, no matter how differently we define ourselves, want to help one another. That for better or worse, we’re in this whole life thing together.
You raised me to be me and in my slightly biased opinion I think you did really well.
At nineteen I am happy and I am settled. I am getting a good education in a field I have dreamed about for over ten years. Learning more about the world we live in so I can contribute more effectively, help a wider community. And when it gets harder I just have to look around because I am constantly surrounded by strong and amazing women, who over the years have grown from girls to goddesses before my eyes. Women who inspire me to be a better human every single day.
And it was you – you who taught me the love that I needed to possess to find them. Who raised me to appreciate that hard work and efforts of the women around the world who are fighting in their own way to create their best life. I am humbled to be part of a generation who cares so much. I am so grateful to be witness to the amazing things that they achieve.
To put it plainly, I am in love with womankind. I am proud of who I am.
To the girls who are growing up so beautiful, so precious, so important.
I want a better world for you. I want to be apart of making that better world for you.
To my mother, the best person I will ever know. I love you.
Thank you, so much, for everything.
To the women in this world– you’re the best. Celebrate yourselves today.
May there be many more wonderful things for us to celebrate together in the future.