I was obsessed with Reba. When I was growing up, I watched her every move and attempted to copy every vocal swell and trill. It wasn't just her vocal prowess that I admired. I saw a smart business woman, a brazen lady, a fearless and fierce woman. I wanted to be like that. I imagined myself having the courage to go after my dreams and maneuver life with that same determination and grace. Let's be real, I'm still obsessed with her.
My Gramma was my superhero. She was bigger than life itself and her energy filled up any space she was a part of. When she was a young mother, she migrated her husband and three kids from Arkansas to California in hopes of finding greater opportunities. She lived through adversity and joy with a steadfast faith. She was brave and strong and stubborn. She was a model for me and I soaked it up. She's still my superhero.
As a teenager, I was mesmerized by Carol Burnett. Not only is she an expert at making people laugh, but her authenticity and compassionate spirit attracted my attention. She's not the typical Hollywood beauty, either, and I saw myself in the awkward body not quite fitting in. When I made people around me laugh, I was elated and hoped I had her wit. Carol is unique and funny and big hearted. She still mesmerizes me.
I graduated high school the same year my mom graduated college. She went back to school after her kids were old enough not to beg for her full attention. She took care of the household, three kids, and a husband while reading books, researching for papers, and studying for exams. She knew that holding a degree would provide her and her family with greater opportunities. I'm not sure she knew that the very act of accomplishing the achievement spoke volumes to me as I observed her determination, vulnerability, perseverance, and commitment. Those qualities are reflected in me.
I could keep going with examples that I admired in my formative years like Erma Bombeck, Mary Higgins Clark, Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Julia Childs, Maya Angelou, Oprah, Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer, Barbara Walters… the list goes on. As I look back on the women who have influenced my life, I realize another common theme. There are a lot of firsts… trailblazers, pioneers, groundbreakers.
Throughout my professional career, I have often found myself as the only woman in the room. I wouldn't dare compare myself to the aforementioned giants, but when I was in those situations I relied on their spirits (I don't know how else to say that), to give me the gumption I needed. Don't get me wrong… I've also been lucky enough to be mentored by several great men in my life. But being able to see someone who looks like you in a position that you admire, gives you the confidence that anything you want to achieve in life is possible.
This year has been full of heartbreak, isolation, and uncertainty, challenging almost every aspect of all our lives. With every challenge brings opportunity. To be alive and witness the first woman to be elected the Vice President of the United States is surreal, wondrous, inspirational, and overdue. Regardless of your political views, this moment in history is powerful for all women. It's showing all the little girls and awkward teenagers that it's possible. It's possible to achieve whatever you put your mind to, even if it seems the cards are stacked against you. It's possible to have a voice and try to change things for the better if you persevere, even when you might feel alone. It's possible to show future generations that women are strong, confident, competent, and equal.