Today, I have come to a conclusion. If I am happy, if I make a difference, and if I am surrounded by people that encourage me to grow and become a better version of myself, I am successful.
Something has clicked inside of me. Last week I attended Girls State (a political camp of sorts) and met so many inspiring women. I listened to politicians and strong women encourage me to follow my dreams, and the words stung as if they were meant for my ears alone. This concept of growing up has been eating me alive for months. I am scared to leave, scared to apply for colleges, and I have no idea what I want for my life. But with the combination of last week’s powerful advice and this week’s nonstop creativity, I have hit a turning point, and I have opened a new page. Something has clicked. I have been attending a seven hour intensive painting class at the local art institute this week, working nonstop with disregard to flaws or minor imperfections. Simply pushing through any errors until I finish. It has given me a lot of time to think. Today I left after class + drove around the city until I reached a vegan coffee shop in an old house, art covering the walls. I sat with a good friend of mine and talked about my faith, my philosophies, my goals and hopes. I want to fall in love with God again. I feel so alive.
I drove home listening to Kate Nash’s album My Best Friend is You and heard one verse a bit clearer than the others. She says, “I don’t know how more people haven't gotmental health problems. Thinking is one of the most stressful things I've ever come across, and not being able to articulate what I want to say drives me crazy. I think I should read more books, learn some new words. My sister used to read the dictionary; I'm going to start with that. I'd like to travel. I want to see India and the pyramids, a whale and that race with all the bicycles in France... I like flowers and simplicity. I like compassion and thoughtful gifts. I like being able to shout but I wish I could be quiet. When I'm quiet, people think I’m sad and usually I am. Sometimes when I’m at a busy train station, I feel like putting down my bags and shouting things out, because I’ve got something to say! Don't you want to share the guilt?”
I want to surround myself with talented, creative people. I want to be truly content. I’ve started to gain more self confidence in the realization that there is so much more to life than caring about weight. Obsessing about appearance does nothing for happiness. Kate Makkai says in her poem Pretty, “[This is] about women who will prowl thirty stores and six malls to find the right cocktail dress but haven’t a clue where to find fulfillment or how to wear joy.”
I feel myself growing and changing… My interests are changing. I declare myself a feminist loud and proud and that is the one thing that has remained constant in my belief system, as experiences are changing me. People make assumptions about my beliefs based on that one term—“feminist.” I care about empowerment and positive energy. I don’t believe in being overly political—investing yourself in pointing out every single flaw in society is exhausting and overwhelming. That is pessimism, not feminism. I believe in seeing the good in people. In recognizing the beauty in the grassroots movement, acknowledging the strength we see in each other and pushing ourselves to our fullest potential. I believe feminism is reaching for the opportunities we are presented with, and even those we are not. The only true “glass ceiling” that separates us from following our dreams is the limit we set for ourselves. Do not blame others or the void that is society for your problems, but instead act as if those boundaries do not exist. Always push the envelope until you reach your personal best, and then push harder.
I want to change things. I want to speak to young women and politically active youth and stir them to action. I want to bring tears to the eyes of teenage girls in a college auditorium as so many women did for me last week. I want to smash patriarchy and I want girls to feel beautiful in their own skin. I want to destroy preconceived beauty culture. I want to write powerful words and inspire change.
I’m on the verge of a breakthrough. I have been given so many opportunities and blessings for which I am eternally grateful, and for them, I feel I have a duty to do something with the skillsets they have earned me. I don’t know exactly what that involves yet, but perhaps that is part of the journey. Ally McBeal once said, “I actually like the quest, the search. That’s the fun. The more lost you are, the more you have to look forward to.” I am lost, dazed and confused, and forever watching the world with glittering eyes. I am forever a student.