This coming Sunday, March the 8th, is International Women’s Day. A global day of recognition for the achievements – socially, politically, culturally – that women have had on our world and elevating the continued fight for equality. It’s also a day that we should take stock of the impact that women have had on each of our own lives.
Much like my mom’s side of the family, I grew up in a large Irish-Catholic family. I had an older brother close to me in age, and 3 older sisters that kept us both in check. Probably like a lot of people who grew up in big families, I had (and still have) a unique relationship with each of my sisters. Each of them has imparted a piece of themselves that I like to think made me into the person that I am today.
My sister Amy, the youngest of my sisters, has always been the strongest in opinion and stubborn when it counts. As far back as I can remember, even as a kid, I can remember her debating my parents – especially my dad, who by the way is a lawyer and not typically out-argued. She sticks to her guns and can talk even the most obstinate person into seeing her side of the argument. It’s also how I knew that when she got sick a few years ago, that she was far too determined for it to win. She has taught me to keep true to what you believe, say what you mean, and stick to your guns. She’s also teaching me to run longer distances, but that’s a work in progress.
My sister Katie, my middle sister, has always had a heart of gold and has never met a stranger that wasn’t welcome at the party. She connects with everyone like she’s known them forever and has always been far more extroverted than I could ever hope to be. We’ve always had a close bond, even living together during my most tumultuous of times (my early 20’s). She’s taught me to treat strangers with a kind heart, be forgiving of people’s mistakes, and to come out of my shell.
My oldest sister Sheila had a daunting task of wrangling all of us when we were growing up – no easy task. Today, she’s still the big sister to us all – often bringing us together when it’s been too long, ensuring all of their kids grow up as close as we did, and keeping our family traditions alive and thriving. She’s also never met a challenge that she can’t handle. She is constantly learning and trying new things. She’s not only intelligent, but also one of the most creative people I know. I like to think that my creative side comes from her, but also my appreciation for science, learning, and all things animals. Sheila has taught me that there’s no challenge too daunting, and to push myself creatively and educationally.
My sisters have had a profound effect on me and how I grew up. They raised me, teased me, gave me my first beer, and a shoulder to cry on over my first heartbreak. I would not be where I am or who I am without them.
My family also has a future generation of influential women, my nieces – Abby, Emma, Chloe and Grace. Even in their young age they’re already teaching me things, concurring goals and setting records. They are just like their mothers and have beautiful, giant, stubborn hearts of gold. The world is ready for them to make their mark.
I consider myself lucky to have grown up in such a large family of influential, loving people and equally lucky to have created a large “chosen” family as well. If unfamiliar, a chosen family is a group of people to whom you are emotionally close and consider ‘family’even though you are not biologically or legally related. That’s the dictionary definition, but I just like to call them family.
Much like my sisters, the female friends that have come into my life over the years have inspired me, pushed me, and shaped me. One of my oldest friends, Sarah, has been a friend to me since I awkwardly, shyly transferred high schools in the 90’s. We bonded over marching band (till I quit), good music, and shared enough laughter and spilling of our hearts to fill a thousand nights. She also saved me from myself when I needed it most, when no one else knew I needed to be, not even myself. She has always reminded me to be true to myself, and as always appreciated me for doing just that. And while years can go by without us being able to see one another, I never forget what she’s done for me, or the bond we’ve created.
I met Jessica shortly after I met my partner – about 10 years ago. Immediately, I was drawn to her sense of humor, steadfast opinions, taste in music and all things pop culture, but also her ability to call BS when she sees it. She is a champion for other women, and for her friends. More than a friend, she has become another sister to me.
Jenn is the friend that every introvert is jealous of. We all wish we could be as outgoing and open with the world, with the ability to strike conversation with the strangest of strangers. She has a giant heart, and she is a risk taker. When other people are debating whether to make a small change in their world, Jen is turning the world over on its ear. I’m proud to have seen her create her own brand from the bottom up and strike out on her own.
Like these women, I’ve also had the privilege of working with, and developing friendship with, equally inspiring colleagues. I work with a team of immensely talented women, some of whom have become mentors to me. They push me to do my best, to stretch myself creatively, and give back to the community.
At this point, you may be thinking “um Brian did you forget your mom – literally the person that brought you into this world?” No, I was just saving her for last. There aren’t enough words to describe what my mother has done for me, or the tiny bits of her that I see in myself. So, I will just say this – if you’ve ever seen the good in me, or ever had anything good to say of me (hopefully), know that’s because of my mother and what she’s taught me.
Please don’t wait for one day a year to show appreciation to the women in your life, to acknowledge the massive impact that they’ve had on the world at large, and to elevate them in every way that you can. They are our past, present and future. They are the inventors, artists, presidents and life savers. Our mothers, sisters, nieces, and friends. Honor them all.