I think it’s a fair assessment to say I have a good head on my shoulders. It would be selfish not to award some of the credit to my mom. For many years of my youth, being the middle child in a single parent household was challenging; back then I considered that an understatement. Surrounded by “normal” nuclear families in our inner circle of family friends, I often pondered, “How can I possibly have a functional family- let alone, life- without my dad?” Growing up unconventionally later became one of my biggest advantages.
I received all the motherly attention any little girl would want, but it was different. I did not fail to recognize all of the choices she made on our behalf. As a child, I admired my mother for staying at a job she wanted out of, and on weekends being on civil terms with a man who had hurt her repeatedly. I couldn’t help but feel personally responsible for all of her sacrifices. I knew that as compensation, I had to make her proud.
While my mother worked long shifts during the week, I was often left to my own devices. This wasn’t neglect, but instead a reflection of my mom’s assumption that I was smart enough to figure things out. I was self-taught in areas big and small; in elementary school, riding the metro alone from one end of the red line and back was a huge accomplishment. A turning point in my elementary school career was when I stopped asking for help with schoolwork. In my mind, it was just another way to assume independence. I became a little grown up, and I was enjoying myself. I was emulating my mother, a hero in all respects.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to realize my identity as a feminist. The independence I so often craved as a child served as a prelude to my feminist identity today. To my knowledge, my mother has never been a self-proclaimed feminist. Labels are simply not her style, but it is obvious she leans in the feminist direction. For personal reasons, she is often overprotective regarding certain aspects of my life. She has always told me to respect myself, body, and mind, and to never allow other girls to violate those three things. Most importantly, she’s been a constant reminder that I’m capable of anything and I should never settle for anything less than I deserve. Today, this advice has translated into my support of equality for men and women. Like my mother, I strongly believe every woman who respects herself is in some form or the other, a feminist; label or no label.
As my senior year slowly draws to a close and college looms around the corner, I can only look towards the future and have faith in myself. I am my mother’s daughter and that’s the only tool of success I need.