My two aunts – my mother’s older sisters – are very interesting people. One has her MBA and is an executive of an academic publishing company. In a male dominated business world, she’s fought for the recognition she deserves and refused to let her gender stop her from reaching her goals. As a child I always admired her expensive style, and as an adult I know she has worked hard to get to a position where she has the financial resources to live that high life.
My other aunt has her library science degree, along with a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies, earned from the University of Edinburgh with additional studies in Iran. She knows Arabic, and is a professor and librarian at a prestigious university. She can beat most people in Trivial Pursuit, and will correct your grammar in an instant. Even though she was from a poor family in rural Ohio, she never let that keep her from seeing the world and reaching all of her educational goals.
Both of my aunts have never married. They didn’t have time for it, and they weren’t interested in having children. That’s not to say that they dislike children – they have always enjoyed their roles as aunt. And they both consider education to be one of the most important things in a young person’s life.
Growing up, these two women were the most educated people I knew. And they were the ones who stressed the importance of education to me. I never knew that there was a choice to not go to college – I simply knew that after high school, college was the next logical step.
They also helped me form my identity as a woman. Seeing the successes of my aunts, I really believed I could do anything I put my mind to. In a small town where girls were expected to be good at Home Ec and English, while boys excelled in Math and Science, I was the winner of the Math award my senior year, honoring the student with the highest math scores over all four years of high school. I was the first girl in many years to win that award. I give some of the credit to my aunts, who encouraged me to do my best in all areas, especially math and science.
It always surprises me to meet women who believe they are less important, less valuable than men. My aunts taught me that I was an equal to anyone else, and not to let others try to shove me into a narrow definition of being a woman. Of course, I went on to marry and have children, unlike them, and doing so certainly slowed down any career aspirations. I love being a wife and mother, but there’s so much more to me than that. Continuing to learn and find new ways to make an impact with others is so important to me, too. I have a degree, I’ve worked on graduate degrees, and I’m now back in school to become a nurse. I enjoy writing and improving my writings skills through practice. I participate in social and charity groups to help others.
My aunts, along with my mom and my grandmother, provided the role models I needed to become the person I am today. I’m grateful that I had such strong support, and I hope that these women will continue to provide a positive influence on my daughters as well.