Dear Young Natasha,
In a way, International Day of the Girl isn’t the most relevant day for you; much of the focus is around education and empowerment of girls in developing countries. You were blessed to grow up in a community and family where your basic needs were always met (as well as most of your ‘wants’ as well), you were always loved, safe, and you always had access to fantastic education. So my first message is, don’t take this for granted. But even the most blessed lives aren’t perfect, and unfortunately some of these imperfections are solely because of your gender. So listen closely little one, please listen to what I’m about to say, and ignore the messages of the old boys club and the glass ceiling that are already being sent your way.
First, and very important for you, do not hide your intelligence. I know, it’s hard, especially hard when it’s the boys who are supposed to be smart, not the girls. The reality is that your mind will never be normal, and I know that’s not easy to accept and to navigate life that way, but you have been blessed with an incredible gift, so please let it shine as brightly as possible, or at the very least don’t hold back and attempt to hide it.
The reality is, because you are a girl, you are going to have to work harder. You are going to have to work harder to be heard, to be taken seriously, to get the same opportunities as the boys. For those nice events you’re going to be invited to, you’re going to have to spend more money on clothes, figure out how to do your hair, and suffer in uncomfortable shoes just to meet society’s standards for women. It sucks, and unfortunately I don’t have a solution. Just do the hard work, jump through the hoops, and try not to burn your fingers on your curling iron. But take care of yourself, take some breaks, and don’t forget to have fun along the way.
In grade 7, you are going to write down your top 3 instrument choices for music class. I saw you erase trombone as your top choice and replace it with flute! Stop! Write it again. Don’t give in to the pressure to pick a ‘girly’ instrument when you’ve wanted to play trombone for years. And you know what? In 2 years, you’e going to have another chance to learn trombone. And you’re going to be really, really good at it, so please take that first opportunity when it comes. Yes, you’re going to be sitting at the back with all the boys, and some people will feel the need to say obnoxious things about that. But you know what? Those boys will become some great friends, music will bring you some incredible opportunities, and the low brass section is more fun than the flutes anyways.
You are going to be told you are too impatient. You are going to be told you are being patronizing. You are going to be told you are too harsh. You are going to be told that you are a bitch. It will hurt. It will make you want to stop. But keep going. Keep going. Because you’re only doing the exact same thing as the boys, it’s just being interpreted differently because you’re a girl.
Raise your hand in class. Talk more. It’s okay that you’re not interested in makeup or Top 40 music. Don’t be afraid to let your interest in politics and sports shine through. You may be the only girl doing so, but if you persist, others will join. Run like a girl, whether it’s for office or out on the soccer field.
And those other girls I mentioned earlier, the ones who haven’t been blessed with the things you have? Never forget them. Keep up the work you’ve done to help others, and always do what you can to make the world a better place. Because if you don’t, who will?
And finally, only you can define who you are, and what you expect of yourself. All those things I just talked about? They are going to mess with your self-perception, with what you do, with what you think you’re supposed to do. Don’t listen to them. Make the most of the loving, successful, supportive people in your life, but at the end of the day make sure that you are doing what you want, not what society and others say you should.
So Tash, that’s what I have to say. Life as a girl is not always the easiest. There are traps along the way; traps of traditional gender roles, the glass ceiling, the old boys club. Traps placed by the haters, traps placed by the insecure, traps placed by those who only care about themselves. But it doesn’t have to stop you, and the lessons you learn from navigating these traps and challenges will only make you a better person. So take your crazy self into this crazy world; go play your trombone, go be bossy, and go show ’em what you’ve got.