Inspiring women and new beginnings


On returning from a volunteering trip to Nepal in 2003 I told my friends I was leaving London and heading back to my hometown Dublin. I had been offered a place on a masters degree course in International Relations at Dublin City University, which I hoped would lead to a new career working on social justice and gender equality issues. Although, this was the beginning of an exciting phase in my life, I had mixed feelings. As a woman in my thirties I wondered if I should be settling down rather than starting over on a new adventure. My head and my heart were pulling me in two different directions. Would I go toward the comfort of the familiar or the risk of the unknown?

For inspiration and support I turned to women I admired, the artists Frida Kahlo and Georgia O'Keeffe and the feminist writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. By reading about their lives, immersing myself in their self-expression through their art and writing I found the courage to proceed. I was motivated by how each of these women had defied convention, set their own rules and pioneered their own approach to life. While they did not all identify as feminists they embraced their lives with a feminist attitude.

Feminism is about many things for me, but first an foremost it is about feeling liberated enough and powerful enough to be able to choose our own paths. In this choosing to be fully ourselves, to follow our dreams, we find freedom. However, the path to freedom is typically full of obstacles and setbacks and that's why role models like Frida, Georgia and Simone can be so important particularly when the going gets tough.

Sadly, many women who made substantial contributions to politics, philosophy, economics, science, medicine, art and literature have been lost to us because their achievements were either de-valued, subsumed into a prominent male colleague's work, or not considered important enough to be recorded for posterity. It is an important feminist goal to write these women back into history, not only to acknowledge their work and the impact they had on society, but to inspire future generations of women who also want to forge new paths.

With the support of my historical women friends I decided it was time for my new path to unfold. And so here I am in Dublin. While at times it was very challenging to change my entire life so dramatically (I sold my home in London, said goodbye to dear friends who I wouldn't see so much of in the future, and left a career in corporate communications that I had spent years developing) however, I also felt free. This sense of freedom was followed by a wave of relief that I had been able to re-imagine my future. A future I have now firmly stepped into. I'd love to know who inspires you when its time to make big changes in your life? Click into my Facebook page if you want to share your list of inspirational people or email me with your thoughts on this blog at: shirleygraham.net[at]gmail.com

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