I mentioned to a few of my girlfriends that I wanted to write something for International Women’s Day (a week ago!) when one of them, my namesake no less, jests “You can’t write about one of us or the others will be jealous!”
She’s right, I couldn't write about just one person - and not because I’m afraid of offending one of the others but - because there's a sisterhood of women in my life that deserve to be celebrated! You've no doubt heard the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”, right? Well, it’s fair to say its taken women from all five continents to raise this woman!
Over the past week, I have recalled and compiled a list of all the women who have on some level influenced me and so far I have been influenced by approximately 517 (and still counting) women.
Most of the ladies on the list I know personally but there are some that I’ve never actually met as (for now) we are only friends on FB or Insta (God bless social media!). I have included women who I’m no longer friends with or I lost contact with them eons ago. For example my first BFF in primary school. Kids being kids, we were friends for days, maybe weeks before she moved away yet she impacted my life enough for me to remember her some 40+ years later. Then there's Oprah and Michelle Obama (aren't they on everyone's list?) that I am yet to meet but I have been impacted by their story, achievements and hair (if you don't know already I have a thing about hair!). Even TV characters like Jessica Pearson from Suits (if you know, you know!). And if you’ve ever read the bible you will know there are a few women who have definitely earned a place on my list, like, Eve, Rahab and the Woman of Samaria (what can I say, I love a woman with a story!).
Not surprisingly, my mother is the first woman to ever have any influence on me. She is the kindest woman I know and when she speaks, I listen. Fact: I would have at least five more tattoos on my body if she hadn’t asked me with, the urgency of a mother snatching a child from an oncoming vehicle, to not put any more on my body (I am hoping to renegotiate this deal). I give my mother “credit” for me not marrying one of my first boyfriends - to be fair, she didn’t tell me not to marry him she just made it crystal clear that she wouldn’t be available to attend the wedding if I did (note: I was an insecure teenager at the time and desperate to be desired by the opposite sex - praise the Lamb my mother knew more about life than me)!
King's College Hospital in Camberwell had the pleasure of my mother’s loyal service for about 25 years where she was esteemed by peers and consultants alike because she greeted everyone with a smile, treated everyone with respect and, more importantly, her work ethic was beyond reproach. I really hope my colleagues will say the that the apple didn’t fall too far away from the tree!
There is another woman in my family who stood out from the rest - my Aunt Ivy - but please don’t take my word for it alone - if you’re able - ask EVERY SINGLE member of my family and they will agree. I was raised in her home until I was 12 so she was more like a second mother to me. She was also the equivalent of Harriet Tubman to so many individuals who arrived from Jamaica in the Windrush era as she sponsored travel and then opened up her home making it possible for many to build a life in the UK. Believe me, generations are standing on her strong shoulders.
Two down just another 515 to go!
Writing this list allowed me to take stock of all the phenomenal women and "great cloud of witnesses" that have sown into my life over the years. I have been nurtured, challenged and celebrated by these women. I have also been disappointed, criticised and ignored by a few too. It's all worked out for my good.
For IWD I organised a luncheon to honour the women in my office. Leading up to this lunch I asked each lady to write something empowering and/or encouraging for each attendee. My primary love language is “acts of service” but I love to receive and give words in the form of letters and cards (a dying activity that I am reviving). I was so excited to give them their words. As they opened them I bathed in the beautiful moment as each woman read what the women around them each day thought or hoped for them.
For many years I was convinced my life would have been different if I had a mentor. To have someone “influential” helping and giving me advice at school, at work, at life! A kickass shero who was winning at life and had learned many lessons along the way which meant I wouldn’t have to make as many mistakes. Yet instead of having just one person mentor me, I have had an army of mentors!
SIS-blog is here because 517 women (and probably just as many men - but that's another post!!!) over the past 18,937 days have cultivated or contributed to the soil of my being. To each one of you - I see you and, with all my heart, thank you. Time for me to pay it forward.