Sometime... or most of the time, we tend to think we have to meet people’s expectations.
What happened to me long time ago when I had my hair cut short was that someone said, “You looked better with your hair long.” A longer time ago, a boy said to me, “You are strange because you like blue color though you are a girl!”
I was like.... What, I don’t care about your opinion. I did and do so because I wanted to do so. Women should be like this, men should do it like this way... don’t you limit your possibility?
I attended the Women’s Leadership Conference on November 2nd. This is an annual conference and each CUNY (The City University of New York) college chooses around 10 female students as representatives. It was so impressive that I really appreciated Center for Global Engagement staff members who recommended me and CSI, which selected me.
There were some CUNY faculties, New York State and City Council members, and entrepreneurs as panelists. Though I don’t know anything about U.S. politics, there was one politician I knew because I had read an article about her in class. It was about the fact that more and more women got involved in politics these days, and she was depicted as a good example. How cool it was that I could meet someone who was a topic in my class.
Attending this conference was significantly meaningful to me since it was held especially both during this era when #metoo movement is growing and in NY, the most diverse city. Race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age... people who have totally different backgrounds get together here. We are different, but we live in the same place and face similar problems. We can share our experiences to improve our situation.
Panelists’ stories were very interesting. One of the speakers told us that she was crying when she was forced to leave a party because of her race. Another told us how she had to remain silent about sexual harassment in order to keep her job, how she regretted that she hadn’t unveiled it soon, and how much courage she needed to speak out about what had happened to her. Even these days, many women struggle with similar situations.
I know it’s really hard to raise your voice because I was a kind of person who was shy, stayed in my own shell, and didn’t want to say my opinion because it may cause trouble. I remember what one of these politicians said, “Don’t wait to do something until you have confidence.” It takes so much time to have confidence that you lose the chance to try. I like this statement. Indeed, I hadn’t had confidence at all to survive in the U.S. before I came. But guess what, I am here. Having left the comfort of my home country I face the challenges every day. Every time I do it, I gain more confidence though.
One of these panelists also told us: “Don’t think failure is bad. Failure is redirection.” Once you try something difficult, you will find your new ability, you will find something special inside of you whether you make it or not.
Before changing my way of thinking, I always considered only how to protect myself. But now I consider how to make myself stronger. I believe you are the only person who can change you. Even after the conference was over, I had a chance to think about women’s rights.
Two classmates attended this conference too. One of them is a sociology major like me, and she is an immigrant and a mother of three children. After the conference, we walked together in Manhattan. She told me she usually couldn’t enjoy her shopping because she had to look after her kids. She loves her kids, of course, but sometimes she needs her own time, she said. Everyone is someone’s family member, a coworker, a peer, or a friend. We have to manage all these roles and sometimes we just need a little bit of support and encouragement. Although women’s rights have been acknowledged in society, they are not as equal as those of men and there is a lot that needs to be done.
This conference reminded me that I am enough and you are enough, and don’t care if somebody says something bad to you. That person just doesn’t realize your worth yet.
I’m going to borrow the phrase from one of these speakers.
“Who runs the world? Girls!”
Ayaka is a Japanese 24-year-old transfer student at the College of Staten Island, the City University of New York. She is majoring in Sociology.