Giving & getting back

I grew up believing anything was possible. The word “no” wasn’t something you heard in our house and my brother and I were given equal opportunities to discover our interests and find our passions. We were encouraged to always try because after all, how were you going to know whether you liked something or not if you didn’t give it a shot? Naturally, I tended not to like the things I wasn’t good at but that did not mean I was scared of hard work and discipline. In fact, I likely put too much pressure on myself at a young age to succeed. Whether classical ballet or calculus, I was all-in to prove that not only that I could do it but I could do it well.

I often look back and work to channel that young energy and enthusiasm into my adult life. Our minds are so easily cluttered by all the noise that instead of being present, we tend to fold or fight our way through the task at hand. As I continue to read about spirituality in an effort to explore my own, I’ve landed on a few common themes, one of those being a top-of-mind-topic this time of year: giving back.

Generosity is not something I’ve ever had in abundance. I believe I’ve become more kind and considerate as I’ve grown up, but for someone who has always obsessively valued time, giving it away doesn’t come natural to me. But given the right opportunity, I’m all yours and that’s how I found myself in the middle of an all-girls all-day hackathon. The idea was to help young girls develop an idea that could help other girls in less fortunate circumstances by using the power of technology. With the goal of encouraging young girls to be involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs, this opportunity would give them exposure to the possibilities that these pillars could offer. I was psyched when I was paired up with the smallest one in the group; for some reason little people and I have always gotten along (at 5-foot-nothing, go figure). We spent the day brainstorming ideas around her mission: “I like to help people because it makes me feel better”. She was bringing ideas to the forefront that faced real world problems that I wasn’t even aware of. It was humbling to be reminded that there are always new and creative ways to solve problems and inspiring to see this young girl leading with her heart. By the end of the day, I was echoing her sentiments: I felt good for having helped others.

As I headed out after the event, I felt a little lighter, less anxious and overall happy. My biggest problems had dissipated and I found myself revelling in the side effects of giving my time and sharing my message with this young girl. I’ve been seeking an opportunity to be involved in the community by volunteering my time and perhaps I found my calling: to work with young girls to show them that being smart isn’t just possible, it’s probable. I’ve always taken pride in being smart. I graduated with a degree in Biochemistry just to prove it to myself. The belief that I could do it came from a lack of doubt and fear; an understanding that I was capable of anything. From a young age I was encouraged to make my own decisions and my parents never influenced me to take one path over another based on my gender, age or ability. I’ve learned that not only do I believe in the power of women but also in the power of young girls; and though they may differ in age it is equally important to encourage them to feel capable of being successful. The world of STEM is close to my heart given my education and employment and I truly believe that in order to see more women in these industries, we have to speak positively about these subjects whether or not they are our strengths. I never heard my mother say “I’m not good at math”, I never heard my father say “that’s a boy’s job”. I fell into the world of technology by accident, but I never thought I wasn’t capable of being successful because it was a “male-dominated-industry”. I believe more than ever that encouraging and empowering our youth can not only help them to succeed but to help us adults as well. After all, it was an eight-year-old that reminded me to imagine, to dream and to find a new perspective to make a difference.

Who unexpectedly changed your perspective on giving back? Share your story in the comments!