Last week, my niece graduated from nursing school and I am very proud of her. I believe in the importance of celebrating the moments, big and small. It might be the warrior in me, or maybe I’m just the kind of woman who always looks for a reason to celebrate. It’s hard to know where this compulsion began. Perhaps it is genetic and inherited from my father. My niece is a warrior in her own way because she is the first in her family to enter the medical profession. She hopes to become a nurse practitioner, which is really the wave of the future. She is paving the way for so many others of her generation to care for those of us from the Baby Boomer era as we age.
My need to celebrate such achievements, especially those of women warriors, might have begun while writing my first memoir, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and learning about how my grandmother survived as an orphan during World War I after losing her parents at the age of twelve. She grew up with a passion to become a doctor and was accepted into NYU Medical School just about the same time they began accepting women, but she had to decline due to a lack of funds. If the circumstances had been right, she could have easily become a woman warrior.
As a child, I was fascinated with biographies about women and their success stories. My interest in medicine, inherited from my grandmother, lead me to an interest in Florence Nightingale. In many ways, her story might have inspired me to become a registered nurse earlier in my career. The stories of others can inspire us all.
During college, while reading Maxine Hong Kingston’s classic memoir, The Woman Warrior, I came to truly believe in the enormous power of women and the human spirit. I had the good fortune of meeting Maxine on her recent visit to Santa Barbara. Not only did Kingston pave the way for future memoirists, but she paved the way for many in her culture. Her bravery was a mere reminder of all the warriors in the world, some more recognized than others.
Women warriors may be found in many disciplines, including psychology, sociology, literature, anthropology and women’s studies. Classically speaking, a warrior belonged to the military or was maybe a revolutionary. However, I believe the word has evolved to refer to anyone who has paved the way and inspired others through her words and actions. The term woman warrior also refers to someone who teaches women how to think and behave. Writers are warriors because they expose others’ experiences and scenarios by helping them navigate their own journeys.
But to be a warrior is not just a classical concept; it is one that is ever-evolving. Anyone who has survived cancer, for example, could also be considered a warrior. By sharing our stories, as I have in my memoirs, Regina’s Closet: Finding My Grandmother’s Secret Journal and Healing With Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey, we are warriors in that we are helping others find their way.
Over the years, more and more women have been thought of as warrior material. Oftentimes, women warriors hang together. Sometimes men are driven to these types of women as well. I have always been drawn to both women and men warriors because they are strong, powerful, influential and they have compelling stories to share, from which we can all learn from and try to emulate.
Now that 2014 has come to a close, it might be a good time to review the year and think about which warriors influenced our lives and why. This is another reason to celebrate, and again, in my world, any reason to celebrate counts.
May your transition from 2014 to 2015 be a smooth one!