Encouraging and Expecting Strong People

Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.
— unknown

I was raised by an incredibly strong woman. My mom is one of the toughest and most admirable people I know. She’ll tell you exactly how it is 100% of the time. She can speak from experience; she can formulate advice. She can relate to nearly everyone in some facet. She is also the woman who broke her toe as she was walking downstairs to mow the lawn, but still shoved her foot in a shoe because the grass was long and it needed to get done. She is an impeccable breed of strength.

When I was young, I sometimes found my mom very harsh. My dad would laugh and respond, “Erica, your mom’s goal is to raise strong children who can stand up for what they believe in.” I usually nodded, walked away, whatever (I was a pure joy to raise—I know). My parents wanted to raise strong children. They wanted to raise kids that can stand up for what is right, stand up for what they believe in. They have continually shown us how to love others through example.

More than that though, there were never excuses. There were no exceptions. Zach, Sophia, and I were the same—equal playing field, equal kids. I assumed this was the norm. Little did I realize, however, this was far from what culture promoted.

I grew up playing in the backyard with my older brother and his friends. I grew up thinking I was as fast as them, as strong as them, and was insulted if I was told I couldn’t play. Looking back and logistically speaking, I was not near as physically apt as them.  I didn’t weigh 80 pounds sopping wet and was extremely uncoordinated—hey, those were the cards I was dealt as a kid. However, I didn’t know that. No one ever told me what was probably more of the reality: I was just a flimsy little girl.

That made all the difference.

I wasn’t as fast as them, but I believed I could be. I wasn’t as smooth nor agile as them, but I knew if I worked hard enough I would be. Zach and his friends were natural athletes and I couldn’t quite keep up, however, no one told me that. No one told me I “ran like a girl” or called me out on my lack of coordination. In the same breath, I wasn’t an exception. I wasn’t allowed to pout if I got hit. If you get knocked down, you stand up. It was plain and simple.

I grew up knowing that I could do whatever I want to. I grew up confident that I could be whatever I wanted to be. I was encouraged to find what I love and do it. Whether that be a teacher, lawyer, doctor, therapist—find what you love and do it, Erica. And ideally, do it well. There were never constraints; there were never limits. I wasn’t encouraged to study communications or nursing, I wasn’t discouraged from studying engineering or operations management. The name of the game was simple, and it was to do what you love.

I didn’t notice this, but as a student studying finance and economics, my classes tend to be male-dominated. My friend pointed that out to me one day, and I was so shocked. It hadn’t registered to me that I was one of the few females in the class, and personally I don’t think that is completely relevant. Because at the end of the day, I looked around and saw people.

In this world there are people. Plain and simple and extraordinary people. There are also objects, dogs, food and animals, but the category that everyone reading this falls under is simple: people.

So here is to raising strong people. Here is to encouraging and expecting strong people—all across the board.