Finding meaning on International Women’s Day | Moment's Notice

By Maria A. Montalvo | Mar 15, 2019

Last Friday was International Women’s Day, and women and girls around the globe, and here in the Edmonds School District, gathered for screenings of “Captain Marvel” to see its fierce heroine saving the world in true comic book fashion.

The lead character is resolute, courageous, and powerful, a little brash, and most importantly, someone who knows her friends give her strength and who learns that her human weaknesses makes her tougher.

Before the local screening, a panel of accomplished women (an Edmonds firefighter, an executive vice president at Alaska Airlines, a Seattle police officer, owner of the Seattle Storm, and many more) reminded the tweens and teens in the room not to listen to doubt from within or without.

Studies show that only 5 percent of girls are told that they can do or be anything, so the speakers made a point to tell this audience to dream first and figure out the path to get there second.

After the movie, as we descended the theater stairs surrounded by excited talk about who to emulate or how to be strong when they grow up, it became clear that these young women were connecting new ideas with endless possibilities in their minds.

It made me think of the significant instances from my childhood that conspired to make me who I am and resonate to this day – those I understand now, those I understood then, and those I am still trying to comprehend.

Many of my early inspirations involved women, from my mom telling me I could be an artist after visiting the finest of museums, to my thesis adviser brutalizing a paper but then telling me I could teach. Challenges to confidence and self-worth come fast and furious to young women on the verge of adulthood, and what seems inconsequential can be monumental.

During my sophomore year in high school, our family moved across the world, or that’s how it felt to me. I was in a new school in a new state, and feeling quite hopeless about the future, isolated and uninspired. One class, my second-period English class, changed that.

My English teacher, with her long, dark hair and casual manner (nearly always in jeans and a patterned shirt), loved literature, and she made sure we all learned why – “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “A Separate Peace,” “Lord of the Flies.”

We called her Miss Scout because she loved Harper Lee so much. One of her most brilliant moments was having us write our own last chapter to “Lord of the Flies,” and I toiled over the 15 pages that had left the children of the book with a nearly impossible choice.

Although I had started writing stories as a child, that assignment cemented my love for the possibilities that exist within words.

Not only did that class bring me a teacher that reignited my intellectual curiosity, but in that class, sitting at a desk in the next row over and one back, was the person who would become one of my best friends, someone who restored my hope that we can find allies when think it impossible.

She and I bonded over music, but also through a love of stories and an aversion to traditional high school fodder. And just as the world started to feel a little more dependable, we sat in that same class, in front of the TV rolled in on a cart, and watched the space shuttle Challenger explode with two women on board – the second American woman astronaut in space and a teacher.

Somehow, our friendship did not let us remember that heartbreaking event with fear, though, and we were able to see it as reason to dare for more.

I had often wondered why I evoke that English class so many years later, feeling it cannot be because of one book or a historical moment. Perhaps those occurrences became a set of meaningful coincidences, the term psychiatrist Carl Jung used to explain seemingly unrelated events that impact to our realities to a large degree, as he put it, as “more than chance, less than causality.”

Is it a coincidence I thought of this on International Women’s Day, sitting with two dear friends, surrounded by girls full of potential, and watching a movie about a heroic woman pilot courageously going beyond what she thought possible to save the world?

Likely more of a meaningful one.

 

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