Recently, I participated in a great project by nerdygirlnotes – a book of thank you letters to the fictional women that have become our heroes. Here was my contribution.
When I was a child, I knew not of courage.
When I was a young adult, it still hadn’t reached me. I lived in the fear of the unknown, of the future. I watched all the women around me grow and move and leave and show off their confidence to the world. I wanted nothing more to bask in that courage. As they stood out, I lingered in, stayed in holes and behind walls, unsure of my potential. There was one thing that I was sure of – that there was no positive place for me in this world. I sank deeper, I lost love, I was losing myself.
I looked up to the boys, you see. It was what was popular, what was televised. Despite their flaws, they had courage. Despite their problems, they found resolution. I admired the princesses too, but there was something missing. I wanted many of them to take charge, to be better, to show me how to be a woman who was both compassionate and fierce without losing a part of herself in the process. As I got older, these wishes fell to the wayside as I tried to find myself amongst the bustle and madness of growing up.
Years later, I moved away from home with my husband, away from all of my family and friends, to start a new chapter. I was depressed and needed a hero, needed a compass to guide me to a better mindset. I was always interested in Captain America, but when he showed up on the screen, I was more interested in your story. How did you take that pain and make a flower in the drought? How did you harness that frustration and move forward with ease, obliterating all doubters in your path? I was amazed that such a woman, especially in that time period, could persevere and out-astonish any being, let alone one enhanced with a super soldier serum. You were an aspiring dream – even in the soft moments of red dresses and dance invitations, even in your tears, I watched you throughout this span of films, excited of the prospect of how you could effect the generations after you.
Then I saw your red hat amongst the sea of blue and gray, walking down the street like the world was yours for the taking. I saw you protect those you care about, sacrificing your time and privacy, for a cause far greater than anyone could imagine, greater even than the Captain’s. You taught me that a woman can be tough but can look great doing it. You don’t have to look pretty OR be a badass….you can be both. You can be tough as nails but still mourn over the things that you lost. Week after week, I looked forward to watching you fight, bicker, outwit, but also love, mourn, and show kindness, even to those who didn’t deserve it (for sometimes they need kindness the most). You taught me that if someone doesn’t respect you, make them. It doesn’t matter your gender, sex, affiliation, background — if you are dedicated to a worthwhile cause, you stand your ground and you fight for it. All it takes is for one person to listen and then it can grow to something quite spectacular.
In those last moments, when you speak of your confidence in a brutal, defeating world, dusting off the thoughts of men or anyone else who doubted you, it was a realization that I had been desperately waiting for my entire life. I spent my existence doing things for the benefits of others while believing my value was diminishing. But what do pain and scars make us? They don’t alter our foundation, they just shape us to make it harder to break. Thank you, Peggy, for making me harder to break. Thank you for teaching me courage, for showing me that kindness and love can prevail, for being a fashion muse, for being diplomatic and holding that gravitas without ever sacrificing your sense of humor, for showing me that sometimes you have to fight for something greater than yourself. I’m learning to become a better woman, friend and confidante. Most importantly, I’m learning to love myself again.
Despite the certainty of age, a part of me is still that child holding to the flickering bulb of fear. Each chapter in your story is a lesson, each development makes me grow along with you. You are the hero that many of us need and have been waiting for, no capes, no shields, no armor. Just your heart and your determination. That will always be enough.
Thank you for showing me my value. It was worth waiting for.