This guest blog post was written by Institute client and teacher Luisana Méndez in honor of International Women’s Day.
It seems crazy to me that a year has passed since International Women’s Day 2020 — a day that was very special for me because I had the honor to participate as a speaker and share a little bit of my personal story with so many wonderful people. However, the even crazier thing is that after that day, the COVID-19 pandemic came to change our plans and our way of thinking and, in general, change our lives forever.
I am sensitive to the sad and harsh reality that we have all been facing since the crisis hit. There has been significant change, sadness and loss. There have been tears, and it has been a daily struggle to maintain stability in our lives. This year has been a journey through the unknown, with uncertainty, fear and rediscoveries.
Personally, I must say that I am deeply grateful that the experience of the pandemic has given me the opportunity to see the world with new eyes. I have connected to myself like never before, and I have become the woman I want to be for the rest of my life.
Since the pandemic began, I have had many significant experiences, including many first-time experiences: skiing, kayaking, going on a motorcycle trip, living independently in the United States and going hiking. I also visited Duluth, Arizona and Texas for the first time. Professionally, I changed jobs and became a volunteer on the Board of Directors of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and the organization Mujeres Latinas Unidas MN. However, the most special thing of the year was getting to spend time with some of my family after almost three years without seeing each other.
This past year, the way the pandemic has affected women in society has particularly caught my attention. Cases of domestic violence have increased exponentially, as have economic crises due to job losses. I see the battles to simultaneously work and support the education of children and the growing tension and emotional turbulence in homes. This reality has shown that the fight for gender equality must be a daily fight; it is not about one person — it is about all of us. That is why it is necessary to start talking, find our place in the world and not allow anyone to corner us and make us think that we are worthless.
Personally, I learned that I am vulnerable in many ways that I did not know. I learned that when faced with unfamiliar situations, fear and uncertainty are the worst enemies of emotional stability. I learned that we must talk about our emotions, acknowledge them, and give them full attention because otherwise, they can transform into depression. I learned that seeking help is not synonymous with weakness. I learned that “self-love” is doing things for yourself, doing things you love. I learned that it is okay to feel bad, but it is not okay for that feeling to absorb our existence; you can pause, but never stop.
I learned that the world does not need women who always appear “strong.” It needs healthy and happy women — women who know where they are leaving their mark. Women who project love, empathy and, above all, women who are resilient.
Thank you so much for sharing, Luisana! Learn more about our annual International Women’s Day celebration and follow the Institute on social media for more stories celebrating women.