I will march because my mother raised me to be independent, and I owe her at least that much to carry on with that tradition. See – growing up, my independence wavered in desperation to obtain conformity because – as we know it – kids are cruel. Each time I wanted to stand out, I was forced, belittled and convinced that in order to survive, I had no choice but to blend in. So ultimately, for year after year, sweating it out on the steps of my school during recess, being pants-ed while my friends and I had wheelbarrow races, or on that fateful day, 14 years ago when my parents brought hula-hoops, and bellowing boomboxes to recess in a desperate attempt for kids to play with me, I tried to blend in. They did [played with me] – for one day, before my best friend’s best friend started a rumor I was a lesbian, and forced me to change schools because I endured such hatred, such torment, over a word I didn’t understand the meaning to.
I carry those scars because one day, I plan to relay them to my daughter, if I ever have one. I want to relay to her the passion my parents held for me and my happiness, and even though that humiliating moment of forced fun left me riddled with scars, it was done because they tried to find a cure for my loneliness. Parents are filled with that – that insatiable desire to cure all of their child’s ailments. But, one thing those events have instilled in me, was the one that rang truest of them all: I’ve always been myself.
While I could casually say that I’ve spent the majority of my life strutting – and I do mean strutting – to the beat of my own drummer, doing so has not always been easy. Forgetting about the torment and the drive to conform during adolescence – which I did, big time – there are moments in my life, today, as a hard-working, career-driven adult that plague me as challenging. This year’s recent election was one of them. I felt bullied to share my honest open. I was called vile names. Friends of mine wouldn’t speak to me – not about the election or policies, or what I deemed essential – but they wouldn’t acknowledge me when I said “hello.” It was the first time in years that I felt unable to speak freely – an ability in my life that I’ve strived for after being a victim of abuse.
When I was abused, I had no voice. I spewed words but no one ever heard me. I was meek, and vulnerable, and the cause of this path of destruction – at least, that’s what I believed. It took me years of being alone, of choosing bad relationships, and convincing myself I was worthless for me to look toward the light of this dark, winding tunnel, and hope that I would eventually find a new beginning – no that I would definitely find a new beginning because what was happening didn’t work for me; I deserved better. I deserved to share with the world who I was. I deserved to raise my unfiltered voice in a wave that would crash over what society thought a young, twenty-two year old girl should be. For years, I did that. I challenged the norm – but no more than I did this year in 2016, when I finally decided to change my course for the better of my sanity, and not what was socially acceptable.
I took steps to change careers. I became a published author, and my book is sitting in print on my bookshelf. I spent months of endless conversation, letting people know that where I am is not where I’m meant to be. I pushed myself to follow those dreams, because at the end of the day, how I live my life, is the entire point to breathing.
I will march because of that. I will march because there are countless women, like me, who endured ridicule in their adolescence. They were girls who came home to eat a box of Oreo’s, crying to their mother about why nobody liked them. They were acne riddled girls, with stringy hair, and pounds of fat, who desperately liked a boy who wouldn’t pay her any attention. They were girls who tried to fit in, but wore clogs and a matching faux fur jacket in fourth grade, which made them feel beautiful, for two days, until she refused to wear it because the kids in her class made her feel ugly because she didn’t wear Aeropostale hoodies like everyone else. I will march for the girls, who before they were women, thought they had to blend in, duck their heads, because that would stop the hurting. I will march for the girls who were teased, yet, through it all, still decided to wear what they wanted to the pep rally their senior year of high school, even when the teacher pulled them aside to say, “Maybe red leopard pants aren’t the best way to go since kids are teasing you.”
I will march for the girls who found themselves, undeserving (always), in an abusive relationship, and who were strong enough to find a way out. I will march for the girls who realized that their happiness came first – over what their friends thought, their parents said, or what society told them was the best route to take – i.e. don’t quit your day job to pursue your dreams when you could fail – yet failing is what drives me to continue, to bleed into this, to sweat into this, to never make me reexamine what I want and what I can do to get there. I will march for these women who have overcome – not the gender gap, nor done anything worth global recognition – but the ones who are daily inspirations for themselves. Everything I’m doing is for my children, who will exist maybe tomorrow, maybe six months from now, maybe three years from now – because when they’re born, I want to instill in them the same kind of fiery drive my mother instilled into me – that when the going gets tough, you get tougher; when those around you are telling you that you can’t do something, you prove yourself right, because it doesn’t matter if anyone believes in you as long as you believe in yourself; that they are worthy of chasing and obtaining the life they dreamed up when they were seven – before they knew about bullies, or the cruelty of society, or the accusations those who believe something you don’t will pile onto you – when they were innocent and full of aspirations and no one – and I mean no one – would bother to tell them otherwise. I will march for those everyday women, because at the end of the day, they are my inspiration because they are the ones who never give up, who never give in.