When I first heard about Tara hosting a monthly Women’s Empowerment Wednesday at Steiner’s Speakeasy, I was so excited. Being a woman who took a long break from the workplace to raise kids and run a household, I found it extremely difficult to break back into the workforce after a 20-year absence. It was disheartening to find myself unable to find a decent job even though I had a college degree and tons of life experience that you just can’t buy with any amount of money. It took 2 years of job searching and a lot of convincing to get someone to give me a chance…at a receptionist job. He didn’t want to hire me because he feared I would become bored because I was “over-qualified.” So I practically begged him to give me a chance and I promised him I wouldn’t quit on him. He conceded. And I’m forever grateful to him.
Of course I didn’t know it at the time, but as it turned out, that receptionist job was a launching pad for me here in Ross County and I think it was an important and humbling lesson for me; there is no work that is beneath you. That job immersed me into working with the finest legal minds in Ross County and taught me just as much, if not more, than I ever learned in college. Not only did I expand my skill set, I also made connections that would later prove to be integral in my career progression.
That job led to another opportunity working for a municipal court judge as his court reporter. And once on board, that Judge realized I was more than a court reporter and he asked me to create a social media presence for the court. Then he asked me to proof his decisions and make sure people who weren’t lawyers could understand them. Then he entrusted me with being in charge of our jurors. I don’t think I would be out of line to say I was his right-hand woman. And once again, that job allowed me to make connections and prove myself as an intelligent, hard-working woman with integrity and drive.
So earlier this year when someone I knew shared that the Heroin Partnership Project was looking for a new Coordinator, it immediately hit me – this is my calling. I’ve made the connections with the people who are integral in this fight. I have a personal connection to this epidemic.
I was raised by a single mother. My father was haphazardly present. He was also an alcoholic. Luckily for me, my maternal grandmother was an integral part of my life. She was truly the beacon of light in my life. Because of her, I learned honesty, integrity, Catholic guilt, and proper grammar. Her husband died when I was 5-ish. He was also an alcoholic. The only other male influence I had in life was my uncle. He was an alcoholic and drug addict. He “died unexpectedly” in 2009, at the age of 56. While I’m sure there are some people who can recall fond memories of my uncle, I cannot. Living with someone who has substance use disorder makes for a turbulent life, to say the least.
The majority of people I know who’ve lost a loved one in this horrible opiate epidemic have fond memories of their loved ones before they succumbed to the disease. Because of them, I know every life is important. Every person we’ve lost in Ross County is someone’s mother, father, child, son, daughter… We owe it to our friends and neighbors to continue fighting for the lives of those we love.
So, when Tara asked me to be the representative for the November Women’s Empowerment Wednesday, I was perplexed. I haven’t done anything compared to the women I hold in esteem who have empowered women to do better for themselves. Tracey Kemper-Hermann, Christina Arredondo, Tracy Hathaway, just to name a few. I’m sure I’m forgetting someone (forgive me). These are the women who deserved to be recognized. They have 10 times the strength I do.
If there’s ever a time that women need to stick together it’s now. I mentioned the importance of connections earlier, and I hold firm to that. We, as women, owe it to other women to help them grow and become strong. The connections between older women and younger women are CRUCIAL to overcoming the abuses women endure daily. Imagine the power of an older, established woman backing the claims of a younger woman. This HAS to happen.
Sometimes I feel that as women, we have been led to believe that we must compete against each other in order to be successful. Ultimately, this is a form of social control used to keep women in “their place.” Success isn’t like pie. We don’t have to fight for one of eight pieces. Success is infinite. Sure, there is always going to be someone who is younger, smarter, more attractive than you…that doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep on doing what you’re doing. We all have something unique to contribute to our society.
There is enough room for all of us to be successful, and the more we help and mentor other women, the more successful we’ll be as a whole.