It can be found on memes, shirts and bumper stickers), but this quote dates back to the 1970’s and comes from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a student at the University of New Hampshire.
I think of it often when I’m trying to push myself past my comfort zones. I was a careful student, rule-follower, and in my early years was not one to take chances. The older I get – the more I say – “why not?”. I quit a lucrative “dream job”, jumped off the side of a mountain in Brazil and went hang-gliding, backpacked around Thailand pregnant with an 18-month-old.
What I’ve learned over and over again is that Rome does not burn when I do these things. Life has a way of working out, and I can’t think of anything I’ve done I regret. Perhaps there are things I won’t try again (solo-skydiving) – but I’m always glad I did them.
This month the Writing Collective at Women AdvaNCe is focusing on Women’s History Month – including our peers we’d find in the history books, and those that live among us. Why is this important? Because these women have walked the walk just like us. They face the same glass ceilings, the same tugs between family and work obligations, the same distressed feeling when they realized they gave it all to everyone else, and collapse at the end of the day, exhausted.
In my research – I found this little group of women fascinating. Check out the National Women’s Party (NWP). This party sought to generate public interest and pressure government officials to support women’s suffrage. Wow – history does seem to repeat itself … I wonder what this national treasure of women would say today about our marching and organizing. What’s poignant is that we are walking the walk because almost 100 years later, what they succeeded in winning, is not enough. Voting is not enough, we must insist on a seat at the table to shape policy and the direction of our country.
Let’s not forget the young – many of them immigrant women – who kept the country going during the World War – working in textile mills. While the men of this country waged their battle on the frontlines, the women kept the world spinning at home, and did a very good job I might add.
Then there are women who face more than one barrier as they continue on their journey to make history. Harriet Tubman served as the conductor of the Underground Railroad. Rosa Parks resisted that seat on the back of a bus and started a movement. Mary McLeod Bethune established schools and civic groups and even served on President Roosevelt’s “Black Cabinet.”
Here in North Carolina, we are in good company when it comes to women working to make history. There are 43 women currently in the State General Assembly. The numbers are growing over the years, but we have a long way to go. There are groups like Lillian’s List ready and waiting to help advance women to positions of power in the state. A scan down the list of the women they’ve helped elect reads like a who’s who of the women in the state walking the walk, and asserting issues that are relevant to us alll.
So this month – I challenge you to misbehave. Push yourself. Make a rule that you have to say “yes” to the next crazy idea. We need more people like that. Thinking of starting a business? Do it. Is there an unaddressed need in your community? Organize. Are you a born leader tired of the status quo in our state and local governments? 2018 is right around the corner. And while you do it – tell us about it. We want to hear how you’re making history and blazing your own path.