January has always been a rough month for me, and I am not sorry to see it go this year.
Thats a lie, I do know why.
The weather, post holidays, the long dark and cold days without sunlight, just to name a few.
It probably didn’t help that on my way to work today, I started thinking about the undeniable fact that I am less than six months away from turning 30 years old (clearly I wasn’t trying very hard to pull myself out of my January funk). My thoughts went something like this:
My career has hit a complete brick wall.
I can’t believe how much I’ve had to spend on dental bills this year already.
Why can’t I force myself to get up an extra 30 minutes early to make my hair look more presentable? All the other girls in my office seem to pull it off.
It’s because everyone else has their life together way more than I do.
Will I ever stop being the type of girl (woman?) who wears out her clothes until they have holes in them?
And so on.
Just as I was getting knee deep into the mud of my own self-judgement, I thought about my mother. For whatever reason, I began to wonder what kind of things she must have wondered about at my age.
At my age, my mother was married, with two tiny rambunctious girls, and pregnant with her third – me! She had moved away from home, to a city where she knew no one, back when people were still writing letters to keep in touch. She had already gotten her masters degree in education, and was working full time as a teacher, while my dad finished his masters degree.
At my age, she was just beginning to lay down the ground work of a life that she would continue to build for the next 30 years. A life that would grow wider and deeper and strong enough to create the foundation where my roots would eventually grow.
My point is, I have a hard time imagining she worried too much about her hair. She was too busy raising a family, building a career she found meaning in, surviving.
Then again, we Fitzpatrick women have always had wild hair, so maybe she did think about it from time to time.
Either way, thinking about what my mom was like at my age forced me out of my negative thought process about my own life to see a bigger perspective. I am not making the argument that my life isn’t as rich or meaningful because I don’t have children, or I am not working towards a masters degree. Everyone has their own individual battles and challenges, and no one way is better than the other.
What it shifted my thinking to instead, is how inspiring it is to me when people create a life of meaning for themselves. Not a life based on what looks good on the outside, or a life that aims to hit the checkpoints that we are conditioned to think we should be reaching at certain ages, but a life that calls to them individually.
Nothing motivates me more than seeing women succeed within their own terms of what success means for them.
This led me to think about all the women in my life that inspire me, and how little would get accomplished if I continue to spend too much time worrying about where I think I should be by now, and instead just focus on building the life that I actually want to live.
In an effort to leave January behind, and start February off right, I have put together a list of women who are motivating me to actively work towards the life that I want, and the type of woman I want to become, instead of worrying about what everyone around me is doing.
Why She Inspires Me:
I don’t care what people say, I love Taylor Swift. Not only is she the highest paid woman in music at 26, but she also writes her own music, and plays four instruments, which to me, is the equivalent of speaking four different languages. She isn’t afraid to speak up for what she believes in, like when she pulled all of her music from Spotify because it doesn’t properly compensate artists, and then proceeded to write an open letter to Apple for the same reason, influencing Apple to completely shift their music streaming policies.
I could go on and on about the reasons I love Taylor, but the reason she made my list above all others, is her focus on surrounding yourself with women who build each other up. I am lucky enough to have women in my life who are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, and who find true joy in one another’s successes. I have seen firsthand how powerful this type of support can be. I don’t care if you like her music or not, that’s something we all can get behind.
Favorite Taylor Quote:
“The one thing I do believe as a feminist is that in order for us to have gender equality we have to stop making it a girl fight, and we have to stop being so interested in seeing girls trying to tear each other down — it has to be more about cheering each other on as women…”
Doctor Hawa Abdi
Why she inspires me:
I first heard of Hawa Abdi in 2011, after watching her TED Talk on running a hospital with her daughters in Somalia during war-time. Abdi has dedicated her life to serving her own country, founding the Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation, which is both a camp and hospital that provides basic needs to the refugees and most poverty-stricken communities in Somalia. She has been described by Glamour magazine as “equal parts Mother Teresa and Rambo.” Today she runs and brings awareness to a camp for over 90,000 people, most of whom are women and children.
Women who fight peacefully, by contributing their skills and gifts to those who need it the most in times of conflict are huge role models for me. Whenever I find myself complaining about the cold Chicago weather, or a work project I am not particularly excited about, I think about Abdi, and it instantly humbles me.
Favorite Abdi Quote:
Abdi was held hostage at her camp in 2010 by Islamist Militants, and told (as half of her camp got destroyed) that she couldn’t run camps like hers since she was a woman. Her response to her captures is one of the (many) things that put her on my list, and earned the slot for my favorite Abdi quote:
“You can’t do things like this. You are a woman.” She responded: “You are a man — you have two testes. A goat also has two testes. What have you done for your society?”
Why She Inspires Me:
I almost left Queen B off the list, because I thought she was too obvious of a choice. Then I realized this is my blog, and I can write whatever I want, and I LOVE BEYONCE, so how could I ever leave her off the list of women that inspire me?
It is hard for me to explain just exactly why I love Beyonce so much. When I watch her perform, I instantly feel like more of a bad-ass, even if I have just wasted an hour of my life on a YouTube bender of music videos (which I may or may not have just done after I decided to put Beyonce on my list). Beyonce has made herself into a business, has been named Forbes #1 most influential celebrity, beating out Oprah, and her husband, Jay Z. She uses her powers for good, shining her spotlight on things like gender equality and women’s empowerment. She’s successful because she works extremely hard, and does things her own way.
Favorite Beyonce Quote: ‘It is so liberating to really know what I want, what truly makes me happy, what I will not tolerate. I have learned that it is no one else’s job to take care of me but me.’
Why She Inspires Me:
If you have watched He Named Me Malala, or read I Am Malala, you will have no doubt why this 18 year old made my list. She survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban after speaking out for the right for girls to get an education in Pakistan, and is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Her survival story is no doubt amazing, but what she turned her life into after the assassination attempt is what makes her so inspiring. She says, “the terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage were born.” It is impossible to watch her speak and not be completely absorbed in what she is saying and how strongly she delivers her message. The attempt on her life made her fearless, and even more determined in her campaign for women’s education.
I tend to be the most quiet and reserved in a group or professional setting, and keep most of my thoughts to myself. Malala inspires me to see the value in speaking up, and that my voice and opinion do matter, just as every woman’s does. If Malala hadn’t been so vocal about what she believed in, she wouldn’t have been able to draw so much attention to women’s rights, and actually get people to pay attention.
Favorite Malala Quote:
I speak not for myself but for those without a voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.
Why She Inspires Me:
If J.K Rowling had done nothing else but bring Harry Potter into our universe, that would have been enough. She became the first person in the world to become a billionaire from a book, and then quickly fell off the billionaire’s list due to how much of her money she ended up giving away to charity. She is vocal on political issues, and doesn’t ever shy away from speaking up for what is right. Her Harvard commencement speech makes me cry every single time I watch it. When I read the Harry Potter books, I am forever amazed by the amount of imagination and storytelling she has swirling around in her brain.
All those things are reasons that she inspires me, but her views on failure are what remind me that even the most successful people have faced great failure in life, and it is never an excuse to stop trying. I can tend to let failures in my life have too much power, and stop me from moving forward with a certain thing, but, if J.K Rowling had done that, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter, so it’s really in my best interest to take a page out of her book.
Favorite J.K. Rowling Quote: “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.”
I could keep going with my list of amazing women, but I am starting to feel pretty good about taking on Monday, and a new month. Sometimes all we need when we’re feeling sluggish is to draw strength from women like Taylor, Abdi, Malala, Yonce, and Jo, and we’re back on track.
Until next time.