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In all of my high school experience, I don't remember a single day passing in which I didn't feel challenged over being heard or acknowledged. I don't remember a single week going by where I felt treated the same as the boys in my class. The way that girls are referred to as a "bitch" but men never are. The way that I held back on my opinions because I knew that my voice would be treated differently than that of the boy sitting next to me. That no matter what I said or how well I backed up and proved my point, it wouldn't matter to the boy classmate who always thought he was right.
I hated feeling left behind. I hated feeling like my words didn't matter as much. That I had to prove myself over and over again, while others were just accepted.
I would walk down the hallway and hear people say that their history test just "raped" them or that their teachers were "retarded."
We live in a world where our president pokes fun at the Me Too movement. Where sexual assault is used as a punchline and women have to repeat themselves three times before they are heard in a class. We live in a world where children are separated from their mothers and put into cages and the public forgets it as soon as a new headline replaces it. Where women are sold for livestock into marriages where they will be treated as objects and it is considered normal.
We live in a broken world. And sometimes, it seems impossible to change. Impossible, even, to see a better future. But you can be a difference. The smallest stone thrown into water will make a wave, even if those standing on the opposite shore can't feel it. It is there. And for a moment, it changes the direction of the water around it.
I don't ever want you to feel ashamed of being a girl. Of being loud, or shy, or opinionated. Some people will think you are "too much." These people simply aren't enough for you. And that's okay. Don't be afraid to wear a pink dress to church and then change into basketball shorts. Don't be afraid to like "boy" things. And don't let anyone ever tell you are "good at ___ for a girl."
But also don't be afraid of doing "girl" things. Of liking when you look pretty or wearing leggings and Uggs. Stereotypical "girl" things aren't bad, as some people would have you believe. They're just more elements that add up into whatever human you want to be.
Love whoever you want to love whenever you want to love them.
Be proud of how smart you are, and when you know the right answer, always raise your hand. Prove people wrong, respectfully. Don't allow yourself to be reduced to labels like "pretty" or "sweet" or "smart." You can be all of these things at once. And you can be more.
Listen to "Imagine" by John Lennon and then make a plan to create that world he saw. Scream the lyrics at the top of your lungs and make sure people hear you. Because right now, I'm imagining and planning that world for you.
I promise you you will find your place and you will fall in love with life. But it won't always be easy. Boys sometimes resemble the predators on those Planet Earth movies and you are a fawn. Your friends will sometimes be foxes and snakes and there is nothing you can do to avoid their poisonous bite. But you can grow into a lion: beautiful, loyal, and brave. All of these experiences will only shape you.
It's okay to hurt, but always try to learn from the experiences in life that challenge you. Everything will change you, constantly. Let it. Lace up your shoes and prepare to win the race against all of the things constantly trying to hold you at the starting line.
Make your mark, no matter how small it may be. It matters. I promise you.
I will sit across from my daughter, holding her hand, and tell her why being a woman is the eighth wonder of the world. I will tell her that her voice is powerful enough to create earthquakes, and people will sing about the aftershocks for years to come. I will let her see the world exactly as it is: beautiful and cruel, but full of great opportunities. I will tell her not to worry; she will find her place. I will whisper to her that happiness is a gift you should give yourself every morning, wrapped with the prettiest bow you can find. I will tell her that her heart will ache more than she knew possible, but it will still beat steadily and she will win the war. I will tell her she was born on a battlefield, but she is built on the foundation of the strongest women, and she will soon learn her most powerful weapon is her mind, and her battlecry will ring through the mountains,
“I will be strong enough to shake the world.”