I asked him, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” His eyes sparkled, and he passionately replied, “I want to make music!” I applauded my crush and encouraged him, even though we were in school to become doctors, lawyers, and business people. Who was I to negate someone else’s dream, especially a boy I liked so much?
He asked me, “What do you want to do?” My 14-year-old self replied, equally as determined and excited, “I want to do something that helps women! I don’t know what yet, but….” He interrupted, “Ugh! Don’t do that!”
I wish I could tell you that I passionately stood up for my dreams and crush or no, I held my ground, but I quickly retreated, and turned back to Mr. Davis’* Geography lesson. Defeated, I asked myself two questions: “Did I just mess things up with Joe*?” and “What is so wrong about wanting to help women?”
I’m proud to say that Joe’s discouragement didn’t stop me. My first internships in college were all for prominent women’s magazines such as InStyle, Atlanta Woman, and PINK, and to this day, much of the work I do in my own business is to empower other women to follow their dreams and create businesses that change the world.
But this isn’t a post about setbacks. It’s an ode, a love letter, to women all over the world on International Women’s Day—those that have come before, those that are here, and our collective future daughters. I speak of America in particular because that is my home, but this could apply to many other countries as well.
I’m grateful to be an American woman for my freedom. There has been no other time on earth, where American women have the freedom we enjoy now. I can marry or not. Have children or not. Become a CEO of a major corporation or run my own business. I can wear my hair short or long. Wear pants or a skirt. Date women. Date men. Choose my religion or not. I can be a billionaire or choose a simple life. I can travel. I can vote.
100 years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to vote. It’s because of courageous women and men from my Grandmother’s generation that I am able to make a choice in who leads my country. 30 years ago, I would have had to fight for every job I had that wasn’t a secretary or a school teacher. I have my mom, one of the first women branch managers and VPs, and others from her generation to thank for leading the way and encouraging me and my sister to lead in our own.
It’s because of the men and women of the past, present, and future that I have the freedom that so many on the planet, men or women, do not have.
The best way you can thank the countless women and men who have made this possible? Live your dreams. Use your voice. Don’t waste another second on living the dreams someone else has for you. You only have this life once. It’s precious. It’s sacred, and it was fought for.
John F. Kennedy has a famous quote: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
I can live my dreams, and so can you.