Growing up with my older brother, I wanted to be one of the boys. Our mornings revolved around the morning cartoons. Afternoons flew by with cops and robbers roleplaying, and in the evenings we were glued to the GameCube. I used to emulate him- from his action figures and Pokémon to his Batman underwear. Naturally, my social skills with girls did not flow as easily. Kids my age were not interested in our video games or playing "pretend" in the make-shift tree house outside. Through elementary and middle school, connecting with the girls was a struggle, and my gawky height, towering over even the boys, made me that much more unapproachable, that much less feminine.
Into adolescence, I was basically considered a boy. The guys I would crush on jokingly horsed around with me on the playground. When I wanted to flirt with my classmate, they would instead include me in their prank wars. I would drool over the cute basketball players while they looked the other way, infatuated with other girls my age. Jealously for the other girls sparked in my heart. The petite, delicate, demure girls in my grade towered over me in popularity and in desirability. Because I would never be them, I loathed their existence.
When high school hit, I did everything in my power to be desired by the boys. If I couldn't fit the image of the cute cheerleader, the good-looking cliques, I would be desirable in other ways. They all turned out to be unhealthy ways, and made me not only hate the other girls for having what I did not but also hating myself, because I did not recognize myself. My personality and my character soon escaped me. No longer one of the boys, no longer desired by the boys, high school passed by painfully in a sort of identity vacuum.
University and college life has changed my perspective on who I am and who I can be or who I should be. In a community of so many different types of people, I no longer feel pressure to fit into a mold to be a valid woman, or to attract love and interest and acceptance. I am able to be geeky, play video games, wear high heels and be over six feet tall, and feel womanly and attractive. I am also able to enjoy makeup, to make girlfriends, follow fashion trends, and other things to which I previously felt morally opposed.
Meeting other strong, feminine, unapologetic women on campus expanded my definition of what I can be as a woman, and not be afraid of scaring away the boys or being considered one of them. My friends, boyfriend, and academic mentors inspire me to likewise pursue goals for myself I never thought to explore. It feels so exciting let myself grow in whichever direction I please!
I jump on my soapbox whenever I can to preach my ideas about women empowerment. I never want a woman to feel restricted to feel so out-of-touch with herself as I did. Whether that means an exploration of one's gender or sexual orientation, or simply one's interests and moral compass, no girl should feel afraid to face herself, to become her own friend, and to reach out to other women and create a network of positivity and inclusivity for us all.
These days, my day still starts with the morning cartoons, and maybe a call to my brother. For the rest of the day, I live with the intent of being empowering to other girls.