Defining an inspirational woman doesn't seem possible. Finding the description that paints inspiration doesn't quite do it justice. Since it’s International Women's Day, I thought it would be an appropriate time to reflect on the women in my life who have given me life lessons – some painful and some joyous. Regardless of how it is interpreted, it has shaped me into the person I am and has encouraged an enormous amount of personal growth.
It can be easy to “think big” when celebrating the women that have impacted your life. Maybe you will think of celebrities that so many hold up as inspiration. Maybe social media provides instant inspiration from women who make short videos about making your morning productive.
However, sometimes the women who have had the most impact are the ones closest to us. Influence and inspiration go hand in hand, but they can present themselves in contrasting ways. For me, my mum has been a solid figure throughout my childhood and adulthood chapters. Naturally, my version of inspiration and learning has changed as I have grown up. My lens as a child is not the same as it is now, and with that, my relationship with my mum has evolved too. My mum exposed a different version of authority to me. One that I found approachable, warm and, more importantly, equal. My voice was always heard, and communication was a joint effort.
Growing up, adults were painted as unreachable figures that had their lives together. As a child, I felt like I could only learn from them, and they were guaranteed to be doing it right. I suppose where we are exposed to seeing adults in authority roles, in schools, as parents and many more, children naturally follow their lead.
My mum’s influence has looked and felt different depending on my age, and I have taken different things from her as my parents. Her informal “lets get messy” approach excited me as a child. Painting the walls and my own body as a form of art was a part of the weekend ritual. The permission to express without boundaries and channel negativity through a form of creative practice, on reflection, has influenced the way I am now at 22 years of age. Mum was and still is a filmmaker, and her continuous ambition to capture social issues has been positively intoxicating. Mum would also get involved with the artistic mess, ensuring that I felt like an equal. She wouldn't sit and observe while her young child was playing. Now, I am a music student who aims to carry this carefree approach to creativity, writing songs for the sake of writing songs. Trying not to be so self-critical is obviously a challenge; we all suffer in some way, a self-critical process. However, remembering my upbringing and the way creativity was introduced to me as a child, invites an approach I apply to my adult years, thanks to mum.
Travel and Change
Travel and cultural education was another key part of my foundation as a child. We are not referring to the type of travel planned and scheduled, day to day, hour by hour. This trip was spontaneous and unpredictable. Taken out of school for short periods of time to explore the reality of life in Tanzania, then living in Amsterdam for the next phase of my childhood, taught me to adapt and find joy in simplistic things, like writing pen to paper. Having limited digital access enabled me to be present and available for real-life experiences happening around me.
Consistency is something we need growing up to create some type of stability. Somehow, amongst the chaos of adult life, we lose that. Unpredictable events occur, and circumstances can at times hinder our progress. Mum ensured that we had a weekly mother and daughter day. Even when the foundations of our home and the people around us may have been dysfunctional, we maintained this weekly ritual. This could have been a simple care ride and a hot chocolate in the park. Regardless of the surroundings, the consistency created security in our relationship and as individuals too. With weekly check-ins and space created to talk about our week, the time was there to talk about other pressing issues that may have been going on, such as school issues or general questions growing up.
I suppose having a mother where communication remained consistent throughout my upbringing was normal to me, but I soon saw that it wasn't so common when speaking about this to my peers. Now, at 22 and very much integrated into adult life and recognising the taboo topics in our culture, it has provided a newfound appreciation for her. Again, travelling and having a mother so immersed in creative practice, was a normal day-to-day routine. It has shaped me to adapt well to change, recognise that nothing will ever be linear, and that creativity is a tool that does not need to meet a criteria.
As we celebrate International Women's Day, it's a great way to reflect on who has influenced our lives and personal growth. Yes, there are stars and women in roles that influence millions daily. Looking closer to home and establishing how my mum has shaped me to think, and be a person with good communication and awareness, speaks much louder to me than anybody else personally. Although I have spoken about my relationship with my mum, this could be anybody close to home, a carer, a friend or a teacher.
Happy International Women's Day, people!