Quiet Sort of Strength
By Sandra M., age 16
As a 16-year-old still in the throes of adolescence herself, I can say with complete and utter confidence that adolescence is not a fun time. The dictionary definition says adolescence begins with puberty and ends with adulthood, so I have four years under my belt and another two years to go. And as I go about my school-filled life, it’s always a little disconcerting when I hear of girls roughly my age accomplishing amazing things. Take Chloe Kim, who, at age fourteen, was the youngest person ever to win the X Games. Or, for a well-known figure, Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel laureate in history. She was only 11 when she started fighting against the Taliban occupation in her hometown. And those are only two of hundreds, probably even thousands, of girls who accomplished extraordinary feats all before adulthood.
However, as incredible as these young women are, it’s equally important to remember that the everyday adolescent girl is no less powerful even if she isn’t out making radical social changes. You are no less strong just because you aren’t a nationally ranked athlete; you are no less smart because you’re not a member of MENSA.
There’s a quiet sort of strength in adolescent girls that we are able to maintain even as the schoolwork piles up and the sleep run lows. Adolescence is scary, there’s no doubt about it. The span of time between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood is a capricious, transformative time. I promise, you will not come out of it as the same person that you were in the beginning, and that’s not a bad thing! Quite the opposite, in fact, because during adolescence, you have every opportunity to invent and reinvent yourself. I, personally, know that I am not the same person that I was two years ago. Right now you are merely in a chrysalis of the teenage years, building yourself up into the butterfly ready to emerge.
International Day of the Girl doesn’t solely celebrate the fame of certain adolescents, it also celebrates the strength of all the girls surviving each day. Some of you have depression. Some suffer from anxiety. Some are socially awkward. And some of you may be struggling with gender and sexuality issues. You may have not won the Nobel Peace Prize, but you are all battle-weary warriors, and this day is one for you: for the strength that you display every day.
So go ahead. Get that shaved undercut that makes the old ladies cluck their tongues at church. In fact, go ahead and dye it that bright, obnoxious color you’ve been secretly longing for. Get those ear piercings (but hopefully not that ear infection). Read that trashy romance novel that all your friends hate, and then unapologetically love it. As an adolescent girl, you have the power to empower—not only the people around you, but yourself.