Gratefulness Challenge Day 19

Hump day already? How did that happen? Not that Wednesday is really the middle of the week for me, but it does still seem momentous whenever I get there. This Wednesday is even more momentous because today I am almost 2/3 of the way through my Gratefulness Challenge! I’m extra excited about tomorrow’s milestone because I have yet to loose steam or inspiration. I actually have a second list going of things I haven’t had a chance to write about yet. Maybe I will have to share that with you at the end if it is still full.

1. Teaching: Over the years I have taught dance to people of all ages and experience levels. Sometimes teaching can drive me crazy. Students are hard because they don’t always want to be learning. It makes my job as a teacher really impossible. But being a teacher is as much a learning opportunity for me as it is for them.

I don’t think you truly know something until you have to teach it. Understanding something is so different than explaining it. My students constantly test me to teach better by making me have to come up with multiple ways of saying the same thing. They ask questions I would have never thought of and make discoveries which astound me. They haven’t yet learned all the boxes I have been taught to live in therefore they think outside of them. Sometimes I am truly shocked by the way they interpret and execute my instructions simply because they don’t have the same training as I do.

I don’t think I am even close to mastering the art of teaching, maybe that isn’t even possible to accomplish, but I do feel like my students have pushed me to work hard to improve. Teaching is a skill like anything else, but I think it is one of those few skills that forces you to be reflective. I am constantly rethinking what I know and believe because my students unknowingly challenge my values on a daily basis. I hope that I am managing to become a better teacher through continuing to share what I know. If noting else teaching has made me a more humble and well rounded artist and human being.

2. Good food: Yesterday was grocery day for me and I have to say that I am one of those crazy people that loves grocery shopping. It makes me so happy to pick out produce, price compare, and imagine all the amazing meals I can make with what I am buying. I also quite enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes.

Not everyone is so fortunate to get to eat so well. Whether this is because of price or access, good food is a luxury. I try my best to be savvy about what I buy, but in all honesty I could walk into the grocery store if I wanted and pick up whatever my heart desires. Every culture, region, and diet choice is represented at my grocery store and at fairly comparable prices. I could even eat out three meals a day and never get bored or go broke due to the ridiculous variety of affordable, healthy options around me. Being in a financial and geographical situation where these are options is pretty amazing. I count myself lucky to have so many nutritional choices.     

3. Powerful young women: powerful women in general are something I am very grateful for. I have mentioned in a previous post my amazing role model of a mother, and I have many other female role models who I would describe as strong women. What’s interesting from talking to these women who are older than me though is that a lot of them mention that at my age they weren’t very confident or outspoken. Now I know that part of that simply comes from age. The older we get, ideally, the more comfortable with ourselves we become, but it got me to wondering about younger women role models.

So then I started making an inventory of what I believe to be part of being a powerful women. Here’s my list so far (I’m sure there is more to come):

    • confident
    • driven
    • self-definining
    • honest
    • kind
    • strong
    • empathetic
    • aware of her short comings
    • passionate
    • opinionated
    • curious
    • outspoken
    • unique
    • complex

Then I tried to think of young women I knew who really truly embodied these qualities. The list had some impressive members but it was shorter than I would have liked. Because heres the thing that I can’t stop thinking about. Generations of women have fought for our right to be whoever we want to be, but are we really doing them justice? Are young women actually being true to themselves or are many of them reverting into accepted and understood stereotypes? I think its great that there are a slew of older women I can look up to and admire their confidence and drive, but what if I want to look across instead of up? I don’t want to think that I have to be older to be strong and I also don’t want to believe that there is only one definition of powerful. The girl power persona is just as much a stereotype as the archaic housewife. Sometimes, when I look at older women who have already gone through the messy “discovering who you are” stage (though I don’t think that ever truly ends) I think, well that’s awesome, but I don’t really want to wait to get there.

Yesterday I unintentionally ended up watching a series of youtube clips of interviews with Girls writer and star Lena Dunham. Now regardless of what you think of the show (I personally love it and all the controversy it has created), from watching Lena talk it quickly became clear to me that she embodies so many of the qualities I value in my more experienced female mentors. And she’s only 26. She is witty and bright, but in no way “perfect.” You can tell very quickly that she, like anyone else, has insecurities and shortcomings yet she does not try to hide or apologize for these parts of herself, she embraces them.

THAT is what I love to see: young girls who are a complete mess, as most of us are at this age, yet can still be described as confident women. I don’t want to see cookie cutter young women who somehow, magically have it all together from the moment they turn 20. I want to see what I really am: completely lost and unsure, but determined to figure it out. There are young girls out there that belong in this club, and I am so grateful for them, but our numbers need to grow! What the generations of women before us have done and are currently doing is amazing, they have taken us far. That doesn’t mean though that our work is done. I want my daughter someday to not only look up to strong women but to have a peer group that is swarming with them. I want unique, confident young girls to be the norm in her life.

So whether it is powerful young women I call friends or ones in the public eye I am grateful that we are all able to be our complicated, messy, determined selves. I hope as time goes on and I become one of those older strong women I can look behind me a see a mob of strong young women looking not at me, but at each other and celebrating the powerhouses they are.

When thinking about powerful, young women I had two videos that came to mind and I just couldn’t decide which to share. So I decided to just post both. The first is a TED talk by Tavi Gevinson. A teenage girl who didn’t seem the female role models she wanted so instead created an online magazine that supported her vision. The second video is an interview with Lena Dunham by CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien.

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