In my family we have an anecdote, "I can push my own tire!" I started using this phrase even before I knew the story behind it, which involves my mother stubbornly pushing a spare tire down the road and refusing to allow my laughing father to help her. No other phrase could possibly sum up my upbringing and the valuable lessons I have learned from it. I believe in the power of women.
My family consisted of three generations of strong women: my grandmother, my mother, and my sister and I. Each of these amazing women has overcome impossible obstacles and utterly convinced me that women are capable of anything.
My grandmother was born during the Great Depression and grew up on a small farm. Life took an unexpected turn when she met and fell in love with a man much older than herself. Despite objections to the match, she followed her heart and married my grandfather at the city hall. Four children later, my grandfather had a stroke. She took care of him for over twenty years while working, running the household, and raising my mother and her siblings. It amazes me that she never stopped loving and caring for everyone, even though it was often so hard.
My mother has always been a tomboy, refusing girly clothes and invitations to scrapbooking parties. Yet, she is one of the most beautiful women I know. When I was five years old, my parents divorced, inflicting a painful and unexpected blow on my mother. Yet she remained strong for my sister and I, refusing to let our parents' mistakes wreak havoc on our lives. She took a job for which she was overqualified simply so that she would be able to pick us up on time after school. She kept our old house, though it made our budget tight, so that we could recover our lives in the comfort of home. I never knew until much later that we ever scraped for money during the early years of her single-parenthood. She always made the best of it,collecting spare change in a piggy bank to save up money for the drive-in theater and taking road-trip vacations to inexpensive camping grounds.
Then, when I was ten, my father died. Time seemed to stop that day as we curled up together in my mother's bed, crying and talking and sometimes just staring at the ceiling in numb silence. Yet the clocks kept ticking and our lives went on thanks to my mothers love and support. She led my sister and I to a place of healing, where we turned our pain into motivation to succeed and to help others who were hurting. My mother's example during times of extreme difficulty has taught me endurance and how to turn a bad situation into a change for personal growth.
My sister, though she is only two-and-a-half years older than me, has also been an enormous influence on my life, and I have always looked up to her. However, when she was in high school, she became ill with a mysterious disease, and our lives were shaken. It was a dark time for our whole family, but she remained hopeful and even strangely cheerful. Finally, she was diagnosed and made a long-awaited recovery. Now she uses her health to constantly befriend and care for those others have overlooked. My sister inspires me to be more kind and cheerful even during difficult times.
All of these women have made it undeniably clear to me that women are capable of getting through any hardship and even creating beauty from it. Their wisdom has also taught me that strength does not come from trying to be like men, for men and women are not equal but incomparably different. Instead, I have learned that to be a strong woman, I must take pride in being wired to be in relationships with others. Though most would imagine world leaders or politicians making the greatest impact on the world, I believe that women, who love so genuinely and selflessly, will change the world by touching one life at a time. I believe that if women around the world would realize the amazing potential within themselves, they will be able to accomplish anything.