Last weekend I attended a panel about smashing the glass ceiling when something within me clicked. The event took place at New York’s latest Nasty Women exhibition, in which one of the speakers happened to be Mindy Abovitz, the founder of Tom Tom magazine. As the creator of the only publication solely dedicated to female drummers, Abovitz spoke of the nebulous of power that exists around all of us. You have to take hold of it, she firmly declared to the women in the audience.
A few minutes later, I watched her take part in a drum performance, in which drummers played throughout the venue, even in the bathroom. But Abovitz had been tasked with performing outside the space, just as icy rain and snow started to come down hard. A little bad weather and frigid cold temperatures didn’t stop her from playing, though. Hood up, hair flowing in the freezing wind, she banged that drum set harder than I had ever seen a woman hit anything before. Here was a powerful woman sitting right before me, shattering the glass ceiling.
In the last few weeks, something has felt different. Good different. It’s as if as soon as the clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2017 I literally left all of my fucks behind. The next morning, I looked at my hung over self in the mirror and saw the same young woman staring back at me. While I hadn’t brushed my teeth and my makeup and outfit were still on from the night before, I felt different. And yet, I couldn’t put my finger on what had changed.
It wasn’t too long ago that I was full of inspiration and limitless ideas, but I was too lost and afraid to do anything about it. Like so many other mid-twenty somethings, I hit an all-time low around age 25. It was then that the fear of putting my ideas and myself out there had exhausted me to such an extreme that I finally had to make a change.
Although my sense of self had been bruised so deeply, little by little I found a way to rebuild my identity. I reprioritized my time and started following through on various creative pursuits. With little idea of what it would be, I bought a domain and started a passion project. From there, I began interviewing other creatives, organizing events, and eventually started writing personal essays. With hard work and dedication, my life changed drastically – And for the better. Over time, I came to know myself, and I started to believe in that person.
After two years of hustling, I had collected a laundry list of life lessons and finally found a community to call my own. With over 20 events, 30 interviews, and several published essays under my belt, I had proved to myself I could actually make shit happen. And yet, this summer I realized I was drowning.
In the same week, I unexpectedly lost a family member and had a negative experience with a guy I was dating. For too long I had not listened to my personal needs, until those tough experiences stripped me raw and left me completely bare. It was then that I realized I had overextended myself to an extreme.
It took my body falling apart to realize that I physically and emotionally needed to take a break. So, I stopped overloading myself with commitments, projects, and plans, and instead, I laid around for days, doing absolutely nothing. I took long, hot showers; watched '90s movies; and bawled my eyes out. It was the first time I allowed myself to actually relax and not be productive in two years.
It was the first time I gave myself space to rest, process, grieve, and heal.
The thing is, I realized then that I needed to stop saying yes to everything in order to say yes to me. It was time to reprioritize again, to start saying no to shit, and to let go of things that were no longer serving me. After much internal debate, I decided to let go of the passion project that had become my entire identity and changed my life in so many amazing ways. And at the same time, I let go of so many other things that had been buried deep inside me for so long — like resentment I felt towards my parents’ divorce, feelings for men who didn’t respect me, and the feeling that I am not enough alone.
Letting go was totally freeing and I came out of it with a greater sense of self. Finally, I felt permission to trust myself and be worthy of being an independent female building her own fempire. With that, I ended a defining chapter of my life, and began writing the next one.
In a few months time, I shifted my focus on a new female-focused project, whose responsibilities I could share with friends. Plus, I signed up for Girls Write Now, a mentorship program for teen female writers. To my surprise, I even landed a new job more in line with my skills and interests. I was inspired and excited to be moving, and growing, forward.
That was until the presidential election. On the morning of November 9th, I again found myself back in that dark hole of gloominess. I admit I’ve never been very politically inclined, but Hillary’s loss hit me hard. Like so many others, I was shell-shocked and completely frozen in fear of the future ahead. But this time, I knew how to take the space I needed to process the upset. First, I rested, then I wrote, and then, I got back to work.
Quickly I realized I had an obligation to my mentee, to my fellow females, and to myself, to keep going, work harder, and use my voice as a platform for change. With that, I pushed myself to stay more politically engaged, readjusted my latest project to give back and help other women in need, and I bought a bus ticket to attend the Women’s March in D.C.
Today, my intentions are clearer than ever. While I now know when to let myself take a pause, I can feel a new sense of purpose pulsing through my veins. At once, I am completely at ease and yet, I also feel totally relentless. In fact, I have never felt so fearless or self-assured. It’s as if the election has lit a fire under me unlike anything ever before. And it’s starting to pay off: Lately, I’ve been feeling even more confident in my work, my writing and my voice. Plus, my side hustle is taking off, and I am meeting new collaborators, friends and men much more in line with the me I am now.
Looking back on the last few years, it’s as if I went from feeling powerless, to feeling empowered, to feeling powerful. Today, I have finally come to know my own Power (power with a capital P). With this new revelation, I am adjusting my New Years’ resolutions and now, my only goal for 2017 is to be the power I wish to see in the world.
Although it may be against everything we’ve been conditioned to believe, us women must teach ourselves, and each other to see, and seize, our own power. There may still be so many glass ceilings to shatter, but if we put our power out there, we will get power in return.
If you’re headed to DC on Saturday, look out for the girl at the Women’s March with a sign that says, “I left all my fucks in 2016."
Photo by Elizabeth Scholnick. The photograph featured in this essay was taken during the New York protests following the 2017 presidential election. A native New Yorker, Elizabeth graduated from SVA with a BFA in Photography in 2011. She now runs an annual magazine, Mind Breath Magazine, and her latest issue dropped this past December 2016. Her company, Mind Breath Productions, produces magazines, books, and is currently in the process of producing a documentary. Follow her on Instagram @elizabethscholnick and see more of her work here.
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Sara Radin is a writer, curator, collaborator and educator based in Brooklyn, NY. Full time, she is an Art + Culture editor for WGSN (a fashion trend forecasting publication). Sara runs two passion projects: Cultureisland (Instagram, Twitter) a platform for interviewing and collaborating with emerging creatives on pop-up events, and It's Not Personal, an anthology inspired by the female dating experience. Her writing has also been published by Huffington Post and Thought Catalog. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.