I grew up spoiled. Not in the typical way we use that term - let me clarify. I grew up knowing that I could do anything I wanted, and it didn't matter that I'm a girl, or from a small town, or not from a rich family. I've only realized how spoiled I was in the past few years of reading other girl's accounts of how social pressures can make the STEM
industries seem like a "boy's club". I've rarely had to deal with those pressures and for the early part of my life, didn't realize they were there.
My parents and extended family are much to blame for my spoiled behavior. I was brought along on camping trips, allowed to program for fun, play computer games, taught the basics of flying a Cessna, and given a trip to Space Camp.
Throughout all of my childhood, my Mom was a big part of this. So, on this Ada Lovelace Day
, I couldn't write an article about women who inspire me without talking about my Mom.
She and her sisters were spoiled in much the same way, by parents and grandparents who greatly valued knowledge of science and literature, and being male or female wasn't relevant. When I was talking with my grandmother about this recently, I still got a strong sense of optimism - of course we taught the girls science and that they could be anything, why wouldn't we?
My Mom passed this attitude on to me in a subtle, positive, everyday way. When she taught me to read, it wasn't because everyone has to learn to read, it was to open my life to all of the beautiful stories I could read. When she taught me math, it was with joy and amazement at the way we could understand the world around us. She taught me to understand and love the math underlying music, and the physics of sunlight beams by playing with leaves. To us, it wasn't being geeky, it was appreciating the facets of life.
She took me to museums, libraries, and colleges, and was by my side explaining each exhibit, or encouraging me to find books on a wide range of subjects.
To this day she is continues to inspire me by constantly digging into deep subjects simply for the love of it. Last year, she graduated with a bachelors degree in Physics which she worked on for many hard years (carrying a full time job at the same time). I'm extremely proud of her for this! And on the inside, I'm really jealous of her classmates who must have felt the joy of learning she brought to each subject along the way.
It isn't just science that she's passionate about, though. One of her latest projects has been to turn an empty house into a beautifully decorated home where her family can feel welcome, complete with trees and shrubs planted in sets of Fibonacci numbers. She jumped into this "women's job" with the same passion as every other subject.
My Mom's love of learning is a large part of who she is, but she's also a beautiful loving mother. She's not a two dimensional "Girl Scientist in a Man's Field", but a woman with hopes, dreams, and loves, and math and science are part of that. Thanks to her, I have always known that I could do what I love and still be myself, still be feminine. And so, I am totally spoiled. My hope is that someday soon all little girls will grow up with this attitude; the world will be richer for it.