powerful women, powerful lessons
The celebration of international women’s day that took place a while back got me thinking a lot about the women who have had an impact on me. These women aren’t all still present in my life, and the effect they have had on me hasn’t always been positive. Despite this, they have all taught me a lot about myself and about the world around me. Whether I am happy they were part of my life or not does not change the gratitude I have for the lessons I have learned through them.
My Secondary School English Teacher
My favourite subject at secondary school was English, I adored it. From learning the fundamentals of grammar and punctuation to getting creative and writing. Unlike most things it came naturally to me and that made it even more enjoyable, but what made it my favourite subject was my teacher. Her passion for the subject made her teaching even more effective, she wasn’t just covering a syllabus she was inspiring us.
I’ll never forget the sense of achievement I felt the first time she asked me to read one of my pieces in front of the class. Usually this would have filled me with fear and anxiety, but instead I was filled with pride. If we finished our work early, instead of giving us more work to do we were encouraged to take out the book we were reading. Any excuse to have my head stuck in a book was more than alright by me.
Already, even that young I had started to realise that my brain didn’t work the same way as most of my peers. Whilst all of us were trying to navigate the battle field of teenage angst and hormones I felt there was additional weight of sadness I was carrying that I couldn’t explain. Reading and writing were my solace and I although it was never spoken about, I always felt it was something my English teacher knew and understood. English lessons became an hour of feeling like I belonged in a school where it seemed like I didn’t and I’ll always be filled with tremendous gratitude for the woman who made school more bearable.
The Other Woman
Truth be told even now, after I have taken every precaution to make sure our paths will never again cross, she trespasses into my thoughts from time to time.
Her presence in my life caused me distress from the very start. Never have my instincts so dramatically attempted to warn me of a threat to my being. Because that’s why instinct exists right? It is what keeps us alive, it is what keeps us from harm. It’s the feeling that takes hold of your whole body when we sense that we are in danger and I knew she was a threat to me the first time he said her name.
Naively I trusted her because not only was she engaged, but from what he had told me she was kind and genuine and couldn’t knowingly hurt someone else. I also trusted her to respect me, as someone that was important to him but also as another woman. I had known from the start what it took him a year to tell me, but it didn’t hurt any less. I wonder if she would feel it too if her now husband had told her the same? If she would fall apart on hearing that I had let my hands linger in the places on his body she thought were only meant for her.
I learned a lot from this situation. I learned what it is to feel heartbreak, grief, sadness and rage – all things I believed I was already an expert on. I also learned what it is to feel strength, forgiveness and courage. I realised for perhaps the first time in my life that I am wonderfully unique and there is no joy to be found in comparing myself to others. Above all I learned to never ignore my instinct, the mental, emotional and physical ramifications of doing so took months to recover from. Often the most valuable lessons we learn are born out of traumatic events, and like a lot of things in life we have to take the good with the bad. Though I’m not yet in a place where I can forgive her for the pain she caused not just to me but to the people who watched me struggle, I do understand why it happened – and perhaps for now that’s enough.
My Best Friend
Making friends is not something I find easy, and maintaining friendships I find even harder. I’ve always had a small circle of friends, preferring to have strong and meaningful friendships rather than having lots of friends I don’t know very well and can’t always rely on. For years I maintained friendships with people that also sacrificed a lot of who I was as a person. They were one sided and a lot of the time I ended up getting my feelings hurt. In the last few years those friendships have ended and I no longer tolerate the company of people who are only interested in themselves. Whilst ending those friendships was hard and I often miss the better things about those people, it has left me lots of room to build new and more rewarding ones.
I met my best friend in my first year of University. I was stood outside my Religion module, early as usual and a pretty girl with a huge smile asked me if she was at the correct room – and that was that really. Almost four years on and she is still my best friend. We don’t always get to talk as much as I’d like now that we aren’t at university anymore but I know that when we do catch up it will be as if no time has passed at all. This girl is one of the most beautiful souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Despite having been through her fair share of hardship her bubbliness is contagious and I often feel a delightful ache in my stomach from laughing too hard when around her. I’m not sure without her I would have even completed my degree, but being around someone who is so hard working and dedicated is motivation like no other. She is a ray of pure sunshine and she lights up everyone around her. Many people use their troubles as an excuse to hide away from the world, to settle for a life not worthy of their desire and capability. Not this girl. She is pretty damn special and inspires me on a daily basis.
There simply is not enough time to ever list the things my Mum has taught me so far and not enough words to describe how much I love her. This woman is my greatest inspiration and my best friend all rolled into one. I have never met anyone else to even come close to showing the strength she has. Her life hasn’t always been easy. By the age of 19 she was a single Mum to two babies under two years of age. She had no money and her support system was non-existent. I cannot even begin to comprehend how scary that must have been, but through it all she showed nothing but courage. My Mum was only a child herself in the grand scheme of things and her young age meant that essentially we all grew up together. I like to think because of this we have a bond that is a lot stronger than most others. Although life must have been tough while we were little, all I remember is how much fun we had together. We danced on the sofas, jumped in puddles and had all kinds of adventures.
As an adult she has been by my side through every hardship, she is my confidant and the first person I go to when I need advice. She is beautiful, intelligent and fiercely independent. She is freakishly happy and has a child-like enthusiasm for the people and the things she loves. She has always been honest with me, even when it has made one of us (or both of us) uncomfortable and she has always encouraged me in the pursuit of anything that facilitates my happiness. She more than anyone on this list has had, and continues to have an impact on me and my life. At 27 I am no longer a child, but when I grow up I want to be just like my Mum.
Celebrating and supporting the women we love or find influential should not be limited to one day a year. So next time you find yourself thinking about how much you value the women in your life, maybe you should tell them.