The Year of Me

Year-of-Me

Apologies as I have not posted in a while, life has been crazy and I have moved to this fancy new website! I don’t usually do personal posts but I felt the urge to share recently. I feel like talking about the quality of life and how each individual has the choice of making the most out of life.

This post might lean more towards the cliché so if you aren’t about that, now is your cue to exit. Now you’re asking what can I, a 25 year-old woman, tell you about living and life? Truth is I can’t tell you anything for sure, I’m still figuring it out for myself. But what I can tell you is that the last few years have been hard.

I have struggled with anxiety and insecurity but in this last year I have overcome so many obstacles and proven my strength, to myself and others. I have become healthier, both physically and emotionally and I’m back to my overly optimistic self. My favourite thing to say over the last year has been, “I’m just being Miley”, from the Miley Cyrus song “See You Again” (I’m not even really a fan but the saying somehow suits how I’ve been living for the last year).

Looking back I realize for a period of time I wasn’t myself. Letting people into your life is a risk, a risk we make almost every day. It’s a risk that can change you for better or worse. For about two years after I graduated high school I felt like I needed a boyfriend, I craved that kind of affection. I became obsessed with finding someone to fill the void and I did something very unlike myself; I found someone and became so dependent on them that I forgot who I was.

After taking some time to put that behind me I started to find me again. The clock struck midnight and I have turned back into my confident, independent and wonderfully optimistic self and I could not be happier. So you want to know my trick? I have been single for about a year and a half now, it hasn’t exactly been by choice but I think it has been for the best. Basically, I am writing this to tell you what I have learned in the past year and a bit of being with my true soulmate, me (and maybe my sister).

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The Year of Me

Fierce Females: Nicole

Nicole

What is it that empowers you most?
I love feeling like a capable, independent woman. Sure, I still live at home (I’ve been in university for 5.5 years, and I have 3.5 to go!), but I was raised to take care of myself. It was never my goal to meet a rich man who can also lift heavy things for me! I am instead empowered by my education and future career which will allow me to be independent; I am empowered by my physical strength and endurance; I am empowered by my integrity.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
As someone who has spent most of her life on self-improvement, this is a tough question! However, I guess I can say that is exactly what I do love about myself–I work hard to do well at the things that I love, because I love them.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
This is a tricky question for me, as it is for most women. As someone who struggled for too many years with disordered eating and self-image, I am all too aware of my love-hate relationship with my body. But it is honest of me to say that I feel most beautiful when I am dirty and makeup-less–after a hard run, ideally in a bit of mud too! It is then that I feel physically capable, and valued for it, rather than valued for my body and makeup.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
I always struggle with “role model” questions. Not that there aren’t great female role models out there, but I suppose I would simply rather not completely identify myself with someone else. We’re all unique, and we’re also all flawed. Perhaps it would be fairer to say I find role models for individual aspects of my life; for example, when I ran track, my role models were my teammates. Some of them had such a hardworking drive to excel, but also knew when to listen to their bodies and take a break (this is extremely challenging for distance runners!). They had the right perspective about competing amongst school and friends, which was refreshing to be around.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Cleopatra! Margaret George, one of my favourite authors, wrote an amazing autobiography finally depicting Cleopatra as someone more than Rome’s mistress. She is instead described as a woman of fierce integrity and sophistication, a hallmark female in an age of patriarchy.

“You were valued by others long before grades, times or appearances mattered.”

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
This is a toughie! But I think I have to say that if not Cleopatra, Pocahontas (the fictional, Disney version). Who wouldn’t want to run around in the woods singing great songs all day with your pals, with some John Smith action to boot?

What is your biggest life goal?
My life goal is to find ways to incorporate all the loves of my life: music, sports, medicine and, of course, my friends and family. I find that as I am slowly forced out of the pseudo-adulthood I call university, I am being pushed to concentrate my life in one area–my career. But physician burnout is all too real, and I strongly believe I’ll be a better doctor (and better person) if I am able to continue doing other things I love. How can I preach health, yet not be healthy myself?

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Some would say my biggest accomplishment so far is getting into medical school, but I would have to disagree. I think my biggest accomplishments are to be found in running. As a slightly chubby kid, I loved reading, singing and acting–I was the least bit an athlete, especially compared to my superstar siblings. However, in junior high I discovered I loved running and cross country skiing. Although hardly a natural, I worked terribly hard (to the point of several stress fractures, which are not recommended!) to achieve my goals. No, I never won CIS nationals, but I won my own personal championship by pushing myself to reach my potential.

What is your favourite quote?
I guess this isn’t necessarily a real quotation, but I always liked the phrase “don’t limit yourself”. When I was in high school and a competitive cross country skier, my coaches asked us to all find a mantra or phrase to use when we were really bagged mid-race. I chose: “don’t limit yourself”. I find it still applies to my life, as it’s always tempting to self-limit and give up, but I’ve always been amazed by what I have achieved every time I kept going. This also requires getting over the fear of failure, a difficult task for most of us! Who knew I would run that time? Who knew I would be in medical school? Who knew I would still find ways to sing regularly? If I had limited myself back then, I certainly wouldn’t know it either.

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
You were valued by others long before grades, times or appearances mattered. You are still valuable now, to the core, and now it is up to you to value yourself, always, as the dressings of grades, times and appearances will fade away.

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism means forging your own path towards your ideal destination. Other people can come along for the ride and help you along the way, but they are not to steer you away from your own path.

Fierce Females: Nicole

Fierce Females: Amie

Amie

What is it that empowers you most?
I think what empowers me the most is my belief that I can do anything in the world. I’m very thankful that I live in a country that allows for freedom and independent thought. I can dream up a million dreams, lay out a plan, and go after it. Not a lot of people have those opportunities or believe they do. I’ve been really thankful to have also been raised to think “If you believe it, you can do it!” stuff most millennials are fed, but my dad always reminds me that it doesn’t happen overnight. If you want something it takes hard work and patience, which is something that has become my mantra.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
I love my idealism, my creativity, and my passion the most. All three have some sort of downfall as well, like my idealism sometimes leads to strong feelings of disappointment, or I’m so passionate that it makes me terribly emotional. Overall though, I view these traits as something that makes me who I am, and I try to channel them into everything I do. I believe in the good in everything and everybody, so I’m usually positive going into every situation and dream really big dreams. I also love imagining new ideas and then I get really, really jazzed up about it. Oh, and I also LOVE connecting with people!

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Being active makes me feel beautiful. I probably don’t look very attractive while running a half marathon, but that’s the most beautiful I’ve ever felt. For example, I feel super beautiful in a hot yoga class and I look in the mirror and I just feel strong.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
I have some really awesome female mentors out there. Whether they’re teachers, bosses, or people I’ve worked with. I’ve been very fortunate to have met and connected with some smart and awesome women. I think building relationships with other women who have come before you (or on the journey with you), and looking up to them (and telling them that!) is super important. So I guess I don’t have one role model, I have a bunch that I deeply value.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Oprah. I have a framed picture of her at my desk in an all white suite looking all badass, and it just reminds me of our cultural meritocracy and my millennial believe that “if you can dream it you can do it!”

On a side note, I don’t think we have enough cultural heroines because this took me a longer time than I’m comfortable with to answer this question.

 

“I feel super beautiful in a hot yoga class and I look in the mirror and I just feel strong.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
I’d be Carmen Sandiego, so that I could travel the world literally in a day.

What is your biggest life goal?
My biggest life goal is to enjoy the moment. I’m constantly thinking ahead or worrying about the future, and I have to take a step back and be in the present. Even if it takes a lifetime of practice, I want to appreciate every moment for what it is and find happiness wherever I am.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Can I say it’s a bunch of small ‘winning’ moments? Like the time I got the job or finished school are great, but they often lead to other small opportunities that are just as fulfilling. Sometimes it’s just getting up everyday and finding courage to do my best no matter what that is my biggest accomplishment.

What is your favourite quote?
This week it’s: “Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it’s yours.”
Ayn Rand

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
That it’s going to be okay. I still tell myself that everyday.

What does feminism mean to you?
I was listening to Sheryl Sanberg’s Lean In while driving back to Calgary for the zillionth time with my dad. There was a part in the book that specifically talked about how women often feel inadequate, and my dad stopped the recording and said he’s encountered those exact same sentiments throughout his life. In that moment I realized that feminism isn’t just about the equality of women, but it’s about us all working together to bring out the best in each other regardless of gender, race, or background. We should all work to encourage each other and judge less – we all have talents and deserve the right to share them with each other.

Amie is an account coordinator in Winnipeg, Canada.

Fierce Females: Amie

Fierce Females: Brittany

Brittany

What empowers you the most?
The knowledge that I can do anything I set my mind to. This whole #FierceFemales project was born out of my own personal pain. The intentions of the project might have been slightly selfish in the sense that I wanted to read the accomplishments, heroes and strengths of others to hopefully help heal myself.

#FierceFemales came to me one day and I just started sending out the questions and the response I got was incredible. Once I had encouragement from the first few women I began sending to musicians, artists and authors both local and international (because, what’s the worst that could happen?) and I got few up and coming artists, a CCMA nominee and I’m still working on getting some authors but I became even more encouraged then I just sat back one day and was like, “shit, I’ve done something big here.”

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Being with my family. I have a big family yet when we are all together they never fail to make me feel special, wanted and beautiful. I am so grateful for how close I am with my family.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
My grandparents without question. I want my grandparents to know that while maybe they haven’t graduated high school or even elementary school that they are the smartest, kindest and most selfless people I know.

My grandparents had to drop out of school at various points so they could help support their families and that hindered them later off in life as they had to take lesser paying jobs to support their own children.

Don’t get me wrong my Nanny always goes on about how much she enjoyed her puffed wheat factory days (where her and my Papas first locked eyes) and she worked there for around 40 years.

My grandparents worked their asses off to give my parents everything they could and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without their sacrifices. That is something I will always keep close to my heart.

My parents for showing me the incredible love that they do everyday and for giving me opportunities that they never had. I also thank them for showing me what true love really is, their love for eachother is unconditional and I am so lucky to see evidence of that every day.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Several years back I became obsessed with the 50s and 60s, especially two of the most popular ladies of that era Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe.

Audrey Hepburn I respect for her extremely kind heart. She did so much humanitarian work with Unicef and she travelled a lot to third world countries to help and to see first hand what it was like. I respect that so much because those are some of my own goals in life and I think that more people should help out if they can.

Now Marilyn Monroe is a big role model for me because she was unapologetically herself. My respect for her grew after I read her autobiography. So many people have a skewed vision of her. Truth is she lived a fucked up life and people are so quick to judge. But I admire her for persevering as long as she did none of us will know what was going through her mind the night she died. I choose to believe she was an otherwise strong woman who had a very weak moment and I have so much respect for someone that lives day to day living with a pain that most of us can’t even comprehend.

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Lisabeth Salander hands DOWN! She is really the first bad ass bitch I came across in literature. She is she knows what she wants, she is smart and she doesn’t take anyones shit.

“I want to write a book maybe a novel or maybe it’s just a compilation of my words and quotes.”

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I hope that my biggest accomplishment is yet to come but my biggest accomplishment to date would have to be beginning to establish myself as a freelancer. I really only recently got down and dirty with the whole “owning my own business” thing. I began to take it more seriously and this summer I was presented with more opportunities than ever before and it’s been pretty crazy but also amazing.

What is your favourite quote?
Well, I am a quote person so I have many! For starters I will share one that has stuck with me for many years…

“To rise out of mediocrity you must not be afraid to fail.” – Unknown

It has really shaped how I live my life. Every person has something special to give the world and where would we be if everyone were afraid of failure.

“She turned her can’ts into cans, and her dreams into plans.” – Kobi Yamada

I had this tattooed on my arm after a pretty big change in my life. I got the tattoo to keep reminding myself to make plans and follow through on them and to at least try when I doubt myself.

“Do not be so heavenly bound that you are no earthly good.” – Kaye May

I found this quote on a piece of paper in my grandmothers things after she passed away and I am convinced she is the author because I have Googled it and found nothing. My grandmother was a very religious woman and I think this quote illustrates what a kind heart she had. I think there are quite a few self righteous people (none that I know personally) that hide behind the bible and are so focused on making it “upstairs” one day that they forget to look around and actually get involved and try to make a difference on the only Earth we’ll ever know.

What is your biggest life goal?
To be my own boss. I want to have my own freelance communications business and I have started to take steps in that direction but I realize I need much more experience before getting to where I want to be, I mean I’m only 24.

I want to write a book maybe a novel or maybe it’s just a compilation of my words and quotes. I LOVE words but I didn’t always, I didn’t even like reading and now to most of my friends I am the biggest bookworm they know. But it would be amazing to have something published with my name on the cover.

If you could tell your 12-year-old self one thing what would it be?
I would tell her that “things will get better”. 12-year-old Brittany had it pretty rough and looking back I am so proud of her. No matter what happened she remained true to herself and that’s all I can ask.

What does feminism mean to you?
To me, feminism is women empowering other women, we have enough people in the world telling us what we can and can’t be and it takes a strong woman to tell another woman “you can”.

Feminism is also not about belittling the other gender. I once heard someone say “to be equal is not to be superior”, I think some people (myself once included) mistake feminism for putting down the male gender and that isn’t the goal of feminism. The goal is to stand equally beside a man in any and all situations.

Brittany is a blogger and social media coordinator in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Connect with Brittany:  Twitter | Instagram

Fierce Females: Brittany

Fierce Females: Steph

Steph

What empowers you the most?
Knowing I have a support system behind me that is filled with unconditional love, humility and no judgement. This small group of incredible people, empower me in my brightest and darkest times.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
When I eat healthy and take care of myself, I feel most beautiful.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
Without a doubt, my parents. My mom has this ability to listen wholeheartedly and give incredible advice without passing on any judgement. I know she inherited that from her mom and I hope to do the same with my child one day. She’s so generous and empathetic to all who surround her. My dad is a brilliant business man who has taught me so many things about succeeding and growing. He too, has a heart of gold. I can honestly say I’m a 50/50 mix of the both of them. I’m so blessed to have them as my parents.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
I have a lot of people I admire.

Crystal Pite is a female cultural heroine that is someone who inspires me in my career. She’s the Artistic Director and founder of the dance company Kidd Pivot. The best part, she’s from Canada! She’s a brilliant choreographer who speaks about her work so passionately and intelligently. Seeing her shows blow my mind! I also love Amy Poehler. If I wasn’t working as a choreographer I would definitely be doing another passion of mine, improv. Amy Poehler is the epitome of cool and someone I definitely look up to.

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Cat Woman. I love how she’s been both superhero and super-villain. It would be interesting to be inside the mindset of both sides.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I think one of my biggest accomplishments in my career is going to happen in a few months. (But I’m not allowed to say right now…!)

To date, I feel the biggest accomplishment was making the move to Toronto. I’ve done lots of amazing things in my career and am so grateful for the awards, shows, videos and other projects I’ve worked on. None of this would of been possible if I didn’t make the move. So, good job 21-year-old Steph! Way to take the plunge!

What is your favourite quote?
“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.” – Newt Gingrich

What is your biggest life goal?
To be happy, heathy, confident, kind and always be on time for the rest of my life!! I have big career and family goals/ dreams, of course. If I can manage to be all of those things listed, I think I will have a steady and strong base that will allow me to attain my future life goals.

If you could tell your 12-year-old self one thing what would it be?
Girl, those braces will be so worth it!

What does feminism mean to you?
For women and men to have equal rights and mutual respect for one another.

Steph is the founder of Rutherford Movement Exchange in Toronto, Canada.
Connect with Steph: Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube

Fierce Females: Steph

Fierce Females: Dani

Dani

What is it that empowers you most?
Knowing that I am a strong, independent woman who can take care of myself and survive some pretty tough situations. I was raised (mostly) by a single mom and it taught me that independence is one of the greatest tools a woman can have in her toolbox!

What is it that you love most about yourself?
I love my ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. I guess that comes from my natural curiosity – I was born curious and I love to hear peoples’ stories. I take pride in the fact that people feel like they can open up to me.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
No makeup. Comfortable clothes. Bare feet…. I love being natural.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
My mom. Truly. Being raised by a single mom and going through some pretty hard times – and most importantly – getting through these hard times on top has really made me realize how strong my mom is, and it didn’t really hit me until I became an adult. She has taught me so much about being strong, and graceful, and a good, kind, generous person even when life doesn’t necessarily deal you the best hand. I am so proud to be her daughter.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Michelle Jean. I admire that woman as much as one can admire someone they’ve only met once. She is, first off, a strong woman in politics – but she is also a talented journalist and generous humanitarian. She also is just genuinely kind (I had the pleasure of meeting her once, in a star struck daze). I have always aspired to be like her.

 

“I feel like my biggest accomplishments are still to come – and I’m looking forward to that. I feel like I’m just getting started.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day, who would it be and why?
So, this is lame, but probably Katniss from The Hunger Games (the books). She totally embodies a strong female and kicks some major ass…. but she’s got a sensitive side, too.

What is your biggest life goal?
To go to bed each day feeling fulfilled and proud of even one small thing I accomplished that day. I want to live a full life and feel like, even in some small way, I’ve given back to this world!

What is your biggest accomplishment?
I don’t think I’m there yet. While I’ve accomplished a lot in 25 years, I feel like my biggest accomplishments are still to come – and I’m looking forward to that. I feel like I’m just getting started.

What is your favourite quote?
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson

If you could tell your 12-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
Learn how to let things go. Holding on to things and people who hurt you is a bad habit to form.

What does feminism mean to you?
Living equally. Being a strong, independent woman, who doesn’t rely on anyone to get through this life.

Dani is the Communications Specialist at Royal Winnipeg Ballet in Winnipeg, Canada.
Connect with Dani: Twitter

Fierce Females: Dani

Fierce Females: Janis

Janis

What is it that empowers you most?
Knowing that my actions make positive change. It’s scary at the same time as empowering to know that I can make our world a better place – it’s something I’m always striving for.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
My choice to be happy. I often let the things going on around me affect my happiness, and often those things are out of my control. I’m choosing to be happy with what I have and what I can control, and it’s so great.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
My confidence. I don’t always feel confident, but when I do I feel strong, vibrant and in that I feel beautiful. Nothing can bring me down when I’m feeling confident.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
I have so many inspirational women in my life that I look up to. My grandmother passed away nearly 10 years ago, but what I remember of her is this strong, hilarious, caring, loving, confident woman who didn’t let anything stand in her way. I see this in my mom and my younger sister. These traits are something I look up to and aspire to emulate.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Everyday heroines always inspire me. Women who fight for what they want, for their families, their careers, their beliefs and their rights.

 

“I don’t always feel confident, but when I do I feel strong, vibrant and in that I feel beautiful.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Carrie Bradshaw (obviously!) the shoes, the clothes, the life, the job, the attitude.

Need I say more?

What is your biggest life goal?
Yikes, tough questions. I think my goals are always changing and adapting. As of late, I would say my biggest goal is to have no regrets. I don’t want to look back at any point and say ‘I wish I was there for this friend’ or ‘Why did I do that!?” or “Why didn’t I take that job opportunity” I want to live life as a good wife, friend, sibling, daughter, aunt.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
This answer isn’t going to sit well with many of you, but I don’t care (read what feminism means to me). My biggest accomplishment so far at the ripe old age of 25 is being married to my best friend and husband for four years. I can hear you eyes rolling!

Hear me out – marriage is hard, living with a boy is hard, sharing your life openly and honestly is hard. Getting married at the age of 21 when neither of us had steady employment and both fresh out of college is hard. Growing, learning and exploring life with my husband has stretched me and made me a better person than I was four years ago and I think that’s a great accomplishment!

What is your favourite quote?
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12

I find this verse inspirational and confidence building. Being one of the youngest people in my field of work is hard; I constantly have to prove myself. This verse makes me feel empowered.

If you could tell your 12-year-old self one thing what would it be?
I don’t think I could limit it to just one thing! I want to say something profound like “Don’t put your happiness in other people’s hands” but let’s be real; 12-year-old me wouldn’t have listened or understood how to make that happen! I guess I would say, “Never cut your own bangs!” Maybe I’d listen to that, maybe not!

What does feminism mean to you?
I’m always redefining what feminism means to be, largely because I’m always learning and discovering more. Right now, it means I don’t have to apologize for being a woman. I don’t need to apologize for the choices I make with my career, my marriage, my faith or my future.

I have the power to make my own choices and I’m very grateful for that.

Janis is the Manager of Communications at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute in Winnipeg, Canada.
Connect with Janis: Twitter

Fierce Females: Janis

Fierce Females: Adele

Adele

What is it that empowers you most?
Team work. Working with others towards a common goal. Supporting, encouraging and challenging each other and achieving results.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
My positivity. There isn’t much that can get me down.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Dancing naked around the house.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
At the moment, I’m a big fan of Amy Poehler. She is so eloquent about feminist issues, and she’s also funny as hell.

My mother. I want to be exactly like her when I grow up. She’s selfless, tough, full of energy and no one would ever mess with her.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Joss Whedon. Not a heroine, but a champion of feminist sentiment. He writes the most badass and complex female characters. And when asked why he does this, he answers “Because you keep on asking that question.”

 

“Just keep on doing what you want to do, you will be happiest when you are just being you.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Lesley Knope from the TV show “Parks and Recreation”. She is passionate about what she does, and just keeps on slogging through all the bureaucratic BS of local government to achieve her goals, which are always about making life better for others. And she eats a lot of waffles.

What is your biggest life goal?
To take my future children around the world. To teach them about and also experience other cultures and histories.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Making people laugh.

What is your favourite quote?
“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
Just keep on doing what you want to do, you will be happiest when you are just being you. People who don’t appreciate your individuality aren’t worthy of being part of your life.

What does feminism mean to you?
Freedom.
The beginning.
Striving for equality not just between the genders, but for absolutely every single human being on this planet.

Adele is an independent performing artist and producer in Melbourne, Australia

Fierce Females: Adele

Fierce Females: Natalie

Natalie

What is it that empowers you most?
Those countless evenings, over countless bottles of wine or pitchers of beer, spent with friends, telling our stories. Sharing myself, my thoughts and my struggles with those I make my life with, and receiving the same from them. Nothing empowers me like knowing I’m not in it alone.

What is it that you love most about yourself?
My tenacity. I don’t shy away from a challenge. Inside, I may very well be completely terrified and insecure but I always seem to manage to pull it off. I love that I am prepared to fight for what I believe in and what I know I deserve. Whether it’s been in my professional or personal life, I look back at what I’ve accomplished in 24 years and I even impress myself!

Physically, probably my hair. It’s taken me years to accept my crazy, incredibly thick, already graying hair. I cut all of it off – and I mean all of it – last spring. It took me getting rid of it to really learn to love it! Sometimes I joke that last spring I broke up with my hair and I’ve spent the last year trying to get it back.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
Swimming alone. Long swims, shorts swims, whatever. There’s nothing like feeling what you’re body can do to truly appreciate it.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
As you can probably tell by my answers, I have trouble narrowing it down to one answer. I am incredibly lucky to have so many role models in my life, it does a disservice to everyone I admire by picking one.

So here’s to my family who pushes me to be the person they know I can be, but still loves me no matter what kind of naïve life choices I make. Here’s to my partner who doesn’t cease to amaze me with his kindness, silliness and love. Here’s to my intern partners-in-crime who stayed up late, drinking wine and talking shop. Here’s to my roller-derby loving, fucking cool coworker who takes me to emerg and talks gender and identity politics with me. Here’s to my book club, talking literature and feminism over so many bottles of red. Here’s to my friends here, across the country, and across oceans, whether it’s in a pub in Hackney, a run-down flat in Arras, a classroom at Carleton, or in front of a game of Catan, you make me who I am.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Leslie Fucking Knope: Leslie on Parks and Recreation is this tornado of a woman: hyper-competent, strong, and loving. Oh and hilarious. Leslie has already left us with so many legacies! Galentine’s Day anyone?

Liz Fucking Lemon. It doesn’t help that I have hair like Lemon and dance like her too, so I feel a weird sort of kinship with Lemon. I remember watching 30 Rock for the first time and just being floored at how human, how weird, how funny she was. So many jokes about eating night cheese, self-esteem and periods!

And, of course, Tina Belcher from Bob’s Burgers. I love how strange, funny, and tender she is all at once. She’s not afraid to be herself, with all her zombie loving, horse-girl weirdness.

 

“To look back on my life without too many regrets; to know I lived.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
Amy Pond from Doctor Who. She’s so fucking kick-ass and so whole a character. She gets to go on crazy adventures, kick seriously alien ass, love two guys at once, hang out with the Doctor and live in the Tardis. Plus, it also doesn’t hurt she has the best hair.

What is your biggest life goal?
To look back on my life without too many regrets; to know I lived. Oh, and to maybe write a book of poetry.

What is your biggest accomplishment?
In the abstract, having that feeling that I’m becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.

In a more concrete way, personally, pushing myself through my Masters degree – which I hated. It forced me to learn about my limits, and undergo some very real, very personal discoveries. If anything it was an education in myself as much as an education in Comparative Politics. It still surprises me that I actually finished it. How many people can say they have a Masters’ Degree by 22?

What is your favourite quote?
I tried to narrow it down to one, but I always seem to come back to this excerpt from Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions about our shared existence:

“… without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people — first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of others, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

There’s also nothing like a good one-liner: Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. – Churchill

If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
Everything you experience is building you into the person you need to be. So be proud of yourself, be proud of that person, because you are the sum of your lived experiences, and you’re only going to get better, stronger, and fantastic.

What does feminism mean to you?
The beauty of feminism is in its variability. It can mean so many things to so many people. So I’ll tell my story, my feminism. I’ve self-identified as a feminist for years, but since leaving school, leaving my safe bubble of equality and like-minded friends is when I finally had to face what it truly meant to experience that drag of the patriarchy.

This past winter, as part of my internship, we traveled to Ottawa to meet with the usual suspects: politicians, lobbyists, journalists, and the like. So much of that week involved sitting in rooms, filled with privileged (white) men, being talked down to, being told how difficult it is for women in government, being told how nice it was to see women interested in politics – as if interest in politics was some hobby I had.

It’s not as if we hadn’t met with any women during that week – we met with several strong, very successful women. But for the most part, it was the same over again. They didn’t want to talk about being a woman – fair enough – but no one was willing to talk about the elephant in the room: that extra pressure, that insecurity that comes creeping in the back of your mind when you’re sitting at a table surrounded by men. That insidious voice that tells you you don’t know what you’re talking about, that your opinion doesn’t matter, that you don’t belong.

Then we met with Libby Davies, MP for Vancouver East.

I will say, no matter how silly it sounds, she fucking got it. She laid it all out. She gave me words for what I was feeling. That feeling of powerlessness, of self-doubt, of insecurity. She spoke at length of how so many women self-select out of jobs of power. We feel unqualified. Women tend to resist applying for high-powered jobs unless they feel completely qualified. We self-select out. We tell ourselves we’re not good enough to make change. This is when it shifted. In those moments when I feel insecure, unsure of my voice, I think back to that idea, that I am limiting myself, limiting my voice. This is feminism. It is the ability to think, to feel, and to be equal.

I need feminism because at the end of the day, no matter how empowered I feel, no matter how accepted I feel, and no matter how equal I feel, there are moments when I catch myself second-guessing my place in the world, my place at the table, my voice, my power, my presence. Feminism gives me hope, it gives me a place, it is what gives me the power to tell myself “yes you do belong”.

Fierce Females: Natalie

Fierce Females: Ashley


Ashley

What is it that empowers you most?
I feel highly empowered when watching the fruits of your labour come into fruition

What is it that you love most about yourself?
The thing I really love about myself, would have to be my sense of humor…I think I’m really fucking funny.

What makes you feel most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I’m dancing.

Who is your biggest role model and why?
I don’t really like this question. I mean there are people I admire, and would like to emulate, and learn from. But I don’t have one single person that is my “go to” for a role model. It would be a mixture of Oprah for her insight, Marilyn Monroe for her captivating and intoxicating beauty, Maya Angelou for her wisdom and Kate Moss for the fashion flair muse.

Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Refer to previous.

 

“Being a dreamer is one of the best thing god has instilled in you.”

 

If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
If I could be a fictional character it would be Samantha from Bewitched. I love a good witch and plus with a wiggle of the nose, I could have anything I wanted.

What is your biggest life goal?
Biggest life goal. Traveling

What is your biggest accomplishment?
Opening hush hush closet, and getting my driver’s license for the 2nd time

What is your favourite quote?
“I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch . You have to go out and kick ass.” – Maya Angelou

If you could tell your 12-year-old self one thing what would it be?
Being a dreamer is one of the best thing god has instilled in you. Keep dreaming and keep believing. And that boys are dumb and they always come back :)

What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism to me means being a badass bitch getting things done for herself, by herself.

Ashley is the owner of Hush Hush Closet in Brooklyn, New York, USA
Connect with Ashley: Website, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram

Fierce Females: Ashley