What wisdom do you offer to young women as they seek to find their own strength, power and confidence in the world?
When I first started to think about this question, my thoughts went to parental influence. This is a bit surprising as my parents were such difficult people for me and for a good part of my life, I would have told you much of my growth and success was in spite of them. But now that I am older, wiser, and . . . more mature . . . I can ‘hear’ them more clearly.
My dad wasn’t much of a nurturer, so I particularly remember when he seemed to want to teach me about life. When he realized that I took the lack of religion in our household (he was an atheist, my mother an agnostic) as evidence of a lack of values, he told me that at the end of the day, he figured if he hadn’t hurt anyone and he had done the best he could that day, it had been a good day. How simple is that?
When I was grappling with peer pressure and adolescent angst, he offered: “Don’t forget – you are the only person who will go to bed with you every night for the rest of your life.”
And when I was living on my own and talking with him about various car and home repair problems, he suggested: “If it can’t be fixed with WD-40 or duct tape, you probably need help.”
My mother left her mark as well, even though she died too early in my life. My favorite from her was scribbled on top of a family recipe, “Remember, if it doesn’t have chocolate, cheese or garlic in it, it probably isn’t worth making.” Now, you need to know, my mother really didn’t like being a homemaker (the women’s liberation movement came too late for her) but she did believe that fun and humor were vital.
My understanding, then, of the childhood contributions to my strength, power and confidence would include the following pearls:
- be kind;
- know your limits and do the best you can on any given day;
- know the difference between spirituality and religion, and
- cultivate the former;
- be true to yourself;
- know when to ask for help; and
- be sure to laugh and have fun, especially when the task is onerous.
Finally, I would add a strand of wisdom that, for me, pulls the other pearls together in a strong, powerful and confident way:
- be willing to be the authority in your own life.
Sally Ann Hay has put skills learned during a career as a clinical social worker to use in volunteer work she now pursues during retirement. She says she is most proud of being active with Options, Rhode Island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender news magazine; helping to create and later co-chair Equity Action, a LGBT philanthropic field-of-interest fund at the Rhode Island Foundation; being a founding member of the McAuley Village Women’s Circle, and helping to lead SAGE/Rhode Island (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders). Originally from California, she now lives in Lincoln with her partner, Deirdre Bird.
photo by Agapao Productions