Our speakers came from all walks of life and ranged from entrepreneurs to doctors, a licensed counselor, a television producer, a talent development professional, and others. What I learned was, we may all have different professions, varying income levels and diverse backgrounds, but at our very hearts and souls we are all the same. Through each presentation one common theme kept revealing itself. We all crave the same things, to love, be loved, to accept, and be accepted, as we are, without judgement or condemnation. We all just want to be the best versions of ourselves that we can possibly be.
Each presenter was refreshingly transparent and vulnerable, openly sharing their struggles and insecurities alongside their successes and victories. We heard about long 16-hour workdays, near business failures, gut-wrenching decisions, time spent away from family, and other growing pains. This paved the way for the women there to feel as though they could do the same. One presenter put it this way, “I believe our do-it-all, have-it-all system has women set up to fail.” She went on to say that her wish was that those women who felt overwhelmed and mad at the dishes in their kitchen sink needed to know they were not alone.
I have heard many stories since the event of individuals who felt they were in a safe environment and opened up to others about the struggles they were experiencing. Some of which were quite heavy. It was wonderful to see phone numbers and email addresses being exchanged, as the support systems for these women grew. I had one woman who hugged me tightly at the end of the day who whispered in my ear, “You have no idea how much I needed this.” That is when you realize that all the hard work it takes to plan an event such as this is worth it!
I think the thing that spoke to me the most was a quote given by one of our entrepreneur presenters. It went like this, “If you want something you’ve never had, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done.” How easy it is for us to stay right where we are, safe and snug within our comfortable box of the familiar. It is also easy for us to look at others who have taken that risk to do something new, something daring, and become envious of their successes.
Perhaps it is time to step out of the familiar and be challenged to do something we have never done before. That might even mean becoming a “sister” or “brother” to someone who could use a listening ear or a reassuring hug. I will leave you with these additional lyrics, “We are family, I got all my sisters with me, got my brothers with me, we are family, sing it, sing it to me, get up everybody and sing, come on everybody!”
Rhonda S. Kelley, Executive Director
Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce