Giving Thanks: Lessons of Change
Today we welcome our first post from Olivia Link, one of our Rising Voices Fellows. Be sure to check the JWA blog each Tuesday for a new post from one of our fellows—and check out the great educational resources provided by our partner organization, Prozdor.
Here we go again: Thanksgiving, the 2013 edition. Families gather across the nation to pile turkey on their plates and to be stuffed with stuffing. I’m sure my family is one of many who take part in a Thanksgiving ritual where everybody goes around the table sharing why they are thankful. But when I get that 15-second spotlight to announce my thanks, I feel as though I never get to say what I truly, deeply appreciate in my life. Nobody at the table mentions the fact that our country has progressed immensely technologically and scientifically (heck, only a decade ago there was no such thing as an iPad). Nobody mentions that beyond technology, ideological shifts within our country have made monumental movement forward. Once upon a time in an America foreign to me, being gay was a legitimate crime and women were actually unable to cast their votes into the ballot box (yup, boxes!). So, to say I am thankful for change would be an understatement.
I am fortunate enough to live in a golden age where I, as a female, am capable of attending college, becoming the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and using my inalienable rights to speak, write, and marry freely. But how has our society gotten here? And more importantly, who are we able to thank?
My answer leads straight to the people who have molded me into the little young lady I am today—my parents. I am part of a family where gender roles weigh little into one’s obligations. My dad makes the best apple cobbler, while my mom is the one who claims the household study for her work. When I was only in second grade, I took archery lessons alongside with my brother and proudly wore his hand-me-down wolf shirt. My parents thought it was cute when my brother and I would intensely battle on the GameCube, but maybe not so much when we would wrestle on his frameless bed. My parents have raised me not to think that being a certain gender means that I need to follow certain societal norms—and I love it! It is great to feel free of heavy expectations. I can grow to be whoever I wish to be and continue to embrace my inner wolf spirit and wrestling skills. So what if I’m a girl? I am Olivia: fabulous, sublime, unique, and oh yeah, also female.
Maybe that is how our society has changed; parents just like mine aimed to raise their children in a way where they would not be victims of these ancient and decrepit norms. As a female, I undoubtedly take the right to strongly voice my opinion. Recently, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) failed yet again to uphold their 15 year promise to renovate my cockroach-infested, mice-ridden school. I was thoroughly fed up with BPS and was not going to let some politician’s empty promises get in the way of my education. My frustrations definitely showed when I testified in front of the BPS school board for proper school facilities during a public, televised meeting. My parents did not raise me to complain about a situation and let some bigger guy fix problems; they made sure I would be able to take matters into my own hands.
Not many mothers would want their daughter growing up nowadays with the mentality that she can only reach her full potential as a woman based off of the desires of her husband. Agree or disagree, our parent’s efforts to encourage this special self-empowerment for their children are definitely worth of a whole lot of thanking.
So let’s shake things up a bit! This Thanksgiving, instead of declaring our thanks for materialistic things, perhaps we can pinpoint who in our lives has shaped us into that fabulous and sublime person we know we are. Mom, thank you for inspiring me to always advocate for myself and never to take no for an answer. Dad, thank you for all your unfathomable support with my writing and schoolwork. Both of you have hearts of gold when it comes to caring for me and my brother and hands-down deserve tremendous applause.