How Important Women Have Been to My Life

Creative Commons photo.

I have a twin sister, and for as long as I can remember, perhaps because of that, I’ve always been closer to women than I have men. Growing up, I had male friends, — one of my best male friends in elementary school was Nashawn, and then we moved to a new school district and that friendship was lost, sadly; if you’re reading this, Nashawn, hey! — but my strongest memories are of hanging around my twin sister and her friends, who then also became my friends. That was the case in elementary school through to the new neighborhood we moved to and the new sets of friends she (and again, by the transitive property, I) made.

Sitting here now, as a 32-year-old, I look back, and that trend of being closer to women, and influenced and helped by strong, talented, and smart women, continued into my adulthood. That image of the women throughout my life as strong, talented, smart, but also compassionate, funny, and humble, is what I have always tried to model myself after. Such an influential image starts with my mother, of course, but I’ll get to her in a moment.

Starting out at the adult level, my most influential college professor in my first three years at university was a woman, who helped connect me with the regional campus newspaper. Then, in the latter half of my college career, I met another professor, also a woman, who was instrumental in basically everything that has flowed from meeting her since then — getting a newspaper internship in Colorado, getting a newspaper internship with the local city paper after I graduated, and most importantly, believing in me and taking me under her wing. It was also a woman, my peer at the university, whose phone call made the difference between me giving up on interviewing for the main campus’s college newspaper and not. Once I joined the main campus newspaper, I was under the learning tree of three different women editors, and then at least four different women who were the editors specifically of the Opinion section, where I wrote a weekly column. One of the latter editors in particular was, to use that word again, instrumental in influencing my column and my writing style from that point forward. I find it hard to overstate that: She influenced my entire writing style with timely, poignant advice.

Once I graduated college and finished the internship with the local city paper, I acquired a job at a newspaper east of the city, where I was the editor and the “boss” to a woman older than I was, who was the established reporter at the paper. For the next five years, it was a tremendous working relationship and personal relationship where we grew the paper together, but also had great conversations about life. At a personal level, one of the frustrating aspects of COVID-19 was that it dramatically hampered that relationship, because we stopped seeing each other in the office. Nonetheless, I learned a lot from her about the journalism business and life, and she was always my “safety net” at the newspaper.

After I moved on from that job to my current job, I’m the only man in my department, surrounded by, as they like to joke, “mother hens.” In the short time I’ve been there, it’s been another invaluable learning experience, both professionally and personally, to be surrounded by such strong, talented and smart women, who again, are also compassionate, funny and humble. Even the branding agency we work with is a women-owned, largely women-employed organization, and again, they are such strong, smart, and talented women, it’s impossible not to learn something by being surrounded by such people. I joke with the women in my department all of the time that I could easily see enough material to write a fascinating book about each of them; they are all that interesting to me. And I get to learn from them on a regular basis! I just feel lucky to be where I’m at and among the people I’m with.

That isn’t to say that along the way, like when growing up, I haven’t been surrounded by strong, smart, and talented men. I have been and I currently am! I even just recently wrote about such a man, my former sports editor, when he left the newspaper. There were also influential men at the college newspaper, and there’s certainly influential men now where I work. Incredibly impressive, compassionate men, who I’m sure if I knew better, I’d have that same instinct of wanting to tell their story. (There is also something to be said, perhaps, for the type of people a nonprofit and especially this nonprofit, attracts.)

My thought is more so, when I look back on my life up to this point, the throughline seems to be that my professional success, and my personal growth, has many women along the way who helped and continue to help make such growth possible. And of course, that goes back to the twin sister, but also my aforementioned strong, talented, and smart mother. There’s a scene I have etched in my memory of my mother picking me up in my fifth grade home room class for some doctor appointment, and she came in wearing this shoulder to ankle flowing black leather jacket, and I remember thinking, “She is so cool … and a little intimidating.” I felt proud to have such a cool mom to show my fellow fifth graders. And she continues to be someone whose counsel I seek … all of the time. If we go a day without talking on the phone, that would be abnormal and weird. I’m not one of those kids who, once grown, feels like I have it all figured out and don’t need to seek the advice or help of my mother anymore. Nope. I call her about all the things, big and small.

I’ve also had a strong relationship with my brother’s wife, my sister-in-law, over the past 10 years. We initially bonded over being introverted book-loves and horror-movie watchers, but our friendship has grown beyond that to just being good anchors for each other. Dependable friendship is a good way to put it: a person to turn to to talk about personal things. Again, I have male best friends, ones I talk to regularly about pro wrestling and such, or ones I don’t talk to regularly, but we have that friendship where we could go six months without talking, meet up, and it’s like no time has passed. We just lock into a familiar groove. But if I were to ever get married, as it stands, my sister-in-law would be my “best man.”

Beyond that, there are also two other women I’ve been close with in my adulthood; in fact, one of whom we were remarking only the other day about how we’ve also known each other for 10 years and how wild time is. The womanly influences are everywhere in my life!

Again, I don’t know what it says about me that I feel like I can bond more easily, and get along more easily, with my sister-in-law versus my brother, my mother versus my father, the women coworkers at work versus the male (although, it obviously helps that I work within a department where I’m the only male, and I don’t get a chance to interact much with other departments), and I mean “more easily,” not that I don’t get along with those male counterparts, but if I were to psychoanalyze myself, I think it a.) goes back to growing up in a close relationship with a twin sister, my original “anchor,” and b.) I’ve written before about issues I have with traditional masculinity and societal expectations of traditional masculinity, and I think I eschew many of those traditional characteristics of masculinity, which makes me more likely to connect with a woman than a man.

I don’t want to make generalizing statements, but in my experiences from childhood to early adulthood to now, for my comfort level at least, women have been easier to talk to than men. That’s what it comes down. I feel like it’s easier to “open up” to them than with men, and opening open means forging a stronger, more important bond, professionally and personally. Maybe I haven’t had a chance to have a more meaningful relationship with a man since I’m not having those same sorts of deep, more connective, relationships with them as I am the women in my life. I hope other men do have those sorts of relationships with other men, and maybe one day I’ll get that.

But anyway, I’ve been thinking and reflecting on this for a few weeks now, and I wanted to pen an ode to the women who have helped me along the way, whether in a professional capacity to help get me to where I’m at in my life, in a personal capacity to be persons who I could model my own character after, or in both capacities. Thank you.

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