Why Women's History Month Makes Me Think About My Legacy
Photo Credit: Anastasia Shuraeva/Pexels
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? It’s a question I’d often come across on college applications, during job interviews, or even just among friends. For a long time, my answer was the same: “As an entry in a history textbook.”
For years, I thought I was meant to make a difference, to change the world, and make such a huge impact that my work would be worthy of scholarly study. Okay, maybe 10 years to achieve that kind of greatness would be an optimistic estimate, but the idea and execution seemed realistic enough. After all, I was driven, ambitious, motivated, and my natural curiosity and love of learning had already taken me far.
As a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, I used to feel bad that my life hadn’t amounted to anything spectacular.
Where I am today is very different from where I thought I'd be, though. I’m not a beloved college professor whose lectures inspire new generations of scholars. I’m not a fashionable museum curator with profiles in Vogue magazine. I’m not a famous author, the VP of some department at a big-name job, or a grand public speaker, or a political activist.
As a Women’s and Gender Studies minor, I used to feel bad that my life hadn’t amounted to anything spectacular. Getting paid to write tweets for conglomerates wasn’t exactly impressive, glamorous, innovative, or progressive.
Ashamed About Not Meeting Expectations
So, every year during Women’s History Month in March — and on International Women's Day, on March 8th — I’d try extra hard to leave my mark. I’d attend lectures on women’s rights, flood my Instagram account with quotes from famous feminists, and even demand equal pay and representation at my company. But I’d usually just end up feeling more overwhelmed and burnt out — especially when my efforts didn’t pay off.
It got to the point where I’d simply retreat into my own head and feel ashamed that I hadn’t lived up to the expectations my professors and other students once had for me.
But this Women’s History Month — and International Women's Day — I realized that a huge part of being a feminist simply means having a choice. Just because I haven’t made a difference on a large scale doesn’t mean I haven’t made my life, or the lives of those I care about, better. I realized that my small acts of progress have added up in a big way.
This month, I’m reflecting on all the ways I’ve changed in the past 10 years. There have definitely been highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies, but the one constant is that I've become a better person through all of it. I have more clarity on what I want for my future, who I want to include in my future, and what impact my actions can have on the near future.
Shaped by My 'Failures'
While I’d love to be the next Gloria Steinem, or work for Angela Davis, I’m happier knowing I have the ability to be happier with less. It allows me the chance to make change in a more accessible way, and focus on elements of social justice movements where my skills can best be used.
I used to be terrified that my past actions weren’t enough to leave a mark on history, but now I see how my "failures" have shaped me. Maybe I won’t be the history textbook heroine I always dreamed of, but I know my legacy is no less significant. I’m proud to continue forging my own path and seeing where it goes, one day at a time.
This post is part of a month-long March CircleAround series, tied to Women's History Month — the first since the global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted women around the world — in which we asked writers to explore the topic of women's history in America, from the past to very much the present. To see all the posts in the series — including relevant news stories — visit here. And if you'd like to contribute to the series, send us your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or post on our "2021 Inspiration Wall."