On June 14, 2016, I will travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the United State of Women Summit #USOW. Convened by the White House, the Summit will celebrate and address critical gender issues such as economic empowerment, health and wellness, educational opportunity, violence against women, leadership, and civic engagement. An important synergistic conversation about these issues will begin at the Summit and I am bringing my daughter Camryn along to lend her voice to it. In August 2016, Camryn will begin her senior year of high school. I have spent the last several months contemplating the important life lessons that I want to reinforce before Camryn embarks upon her next chapter. These life lessons mirror the topics to be discussed during the Summit and thus, I am looking forward to a true teachable experience. To maximize this opportunity I am providing Camryn with the following pre-Summit primer.
Camryn one of the first lessons that I want to impart is the importance of identifying, listening to, and trusting your inner voice. Your powerful inner voice is your touchstone and guide. Listen carefully because it will alert you to danger ahead, tell you when to be still, and then beckon you forward. It serves to remind you of who you are capable of becoming. Once you find your voice use it to speak truth to power for yourself and those who have not found their own.
Second, my dear daughter you are coming of age at a time of unprecedented change. Do not fear the change, embrace it. This change is accompanied by an ever widening array of educational, personal, and professional choices. Know that you stand on the shoulders of women whose sacrifices made these choices possible. You thank them by choosing to change your corner of the world. Leave your corner of the world better than you found it. I will not pretend that your choices will be easy. But, if you listen to your inner voice your choices will put you on the path towards fulfilling your life purpose. Know yourself. Do not allow me or anyone else dictate your choice or path. Choose your own path and grow while you walk it.
Camryn, your health and wellness are sacrosanct. Do not sacrifice your health and well-being at the altar of perfection and expectations of others. Women work tirelessly both in and outside of the home. We willingly give ourselves away often at the expense of our personal and mental health. Selfishly practice self-care without apology. Exercise, sleep, practice stillness, and only consume that which holistically nourishes you. Zealously guard your mental and emotional health. Do not waste your energy striving for perfection. Recognize that who you are enough.
Fourth, understand that physical, sexual, and emotional violence against women threatens the safety of every woman. Even the strongest and most confident woman can fall victim to violence. There is no justification for or requirement that you endure it period. Violence is not about love; it is about power. You and your friends must watch out for each other. Never attend a party alone and do not leave a friend behind. Do not allow anyone to segregate you from your group. Never drink anything that has been left unattended. If you are physically, sexually, or emotionally violated, know that it is not your fault. Prepare to fight your way back from it.
Finally, remember life will teach you the lessons you need for your journey. Go live it. You will learn the most from your cruelest teachers. Learn the lesson the first time. Otherwise, it will just keep boomeranging back until you do the work. In this life you will not leap from one mountain top experience to the next. Life is about both peaks and valleys. Valuable life lessons are learned in the valley. You do not learn any lesson solely for your personal benefit. You learn the lesson to share it with others.
Camryn as you transition into young adulthood you must educate and equip yourself to join the conversation about the key issues affecting women. Your participation in the United State of Women #USOW is part of the equipping and educating process. My daughter, this is for you.
Follow the United State of Women online via live stream and on Twitter using #StateofWomen and #USOW
Originally published in Medium, Student Voices
The views and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the White House and the White House does not endorse all content herein. Nothing in this post shall constitute an endorsement of any products, companies, or organizations.