I am the 1 in 100 that actually enjoys going to school; I can thank my parents for that. Although I was always as keen as a bean to wake up and learn each day, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I can clearly remember my mum tearing out the pages of my homework book in primary school and making me restart because I rushed through my spelling words and it was too messy. As I matured, my love for education and school only grew fonder, but as a teenage girl I face many distractions and boys were of course one of those.
On the 29th of September 2015, Glamour held a presentation on “The Power of an Educated Girl” in Harlem, NYC. Whilst I was thoroughly enjoyed the entire presentation, I was particularly drawn to Michelle Obama’s views on “putting books before boys”.
At the beginning of Year 12 (I saw this as the ride or die year), I began a serious relationship. I was trying to keep a healthy balance between my studies, sporting commitments, leisure time, family and now my relationship. Of course this was hard and I saw myself sweeping my studies under the rug. My actions disturbed me. I was embarrassed that I had allowed a single person to change what I believed in, and consequently the relationship ended.
It was at this point that I watched a video of Michelle Obama on Facebook. She stated “there is no boy, at this age, cute enough or interesting enough to stop you from getting an education”. After just ending my relationship for this sole reason, I came to the realisation that I was not being selfish, I was being responsible. Michelle Obama is a role model to many young girls, myself being one of them, so naturally, I took her advice to heart. At the beginning of the presentation, Michelle described an education as “the key to the future”. She spoke of how she valued her education as a child and that through her actions she was able to push herself to the point that she is at today. This resonated with my as I have always seen school as a stepping stone, a pathway, a road to becoming someone bigger and better.
The main point of the presentation was to inform people, in particular young women, that education is important. But behind the facts and figures, I related with this presentation on a more personal level. The women on the panel are all so influential and powerful, and I realised that the reason they are is because they put their education first. It was pondered upon many times, that 62 million girls across the world are denied of an education. In a way this was a reality check for me. While I was choosing between a teenage boyfriend and my future, there were 62 million girls “who would love to be in my place” as the First Lady said herself.
Many girls in the audience brought up the point that as a teenage girl, there are any expectations of you; sometimes being the girl who is always studying is not appealing to your friends, nor boys. Charlize Theron simply said “there is nothing sexier than a smart woman”. This was followed by an uproar of the audience and my 17-year-old self screamed inside. As a teenage girl, all you want, is to be accepted. I saw this as a challenge for myself as I was always putting my education before any social events.
When you’re younger you go to school and you do your homework because essentially that’s all there is to life. But growing up, there is more to experience. I didn’t want to be seen as a ‘nerd’ and I didn’t want my peers to exclude me because of my actions. Michelle Obama responded to the girls in the audience with “you cannot be successful hanging around people who drag you down…whether that’s your boo or your best friends, you’ve got to learn to push these people to the side”.
I realised that my education is more important that my peer’s narrow-minded opinions. I have learnt that friends who are able to identify and accept my values and beliefs are my real friends, and they are the people I should be surrounding myself with.
Charlize Theron said “[girls] have been told to live by a certain mould…it’s time to break it…stop waiting for men to do that…we can’t have boys designate [our femininity] to use anymore”. She continuously promoted how the power of a woman had to come from within, that it is up to us, as women, to stand up for our right to an education without being discriminated against.
I have realised that with a good education comes a great future, and with a great future comes exceptional peers. As Michelle Obama said, “you don’t want to be with a boy that’s too stupid to know”.
As a child I always did my homework, but I have realised now, as a graduate of Year 12, that it was still always completed. This may be because I was still frightened at the thought of getting in trouble, I’m not quite sure. My education has, and always will be, an important part of my life, and it’s something I am happy, and proud, to be defined by. “The Power of an Educated Girl” helped me realise that when I was younger, I listened to my parents lecture me about a good education because it was all I knew, but growing up, my education has been something I value myself. For a second, I let go of this, and it’s amazing to see just how quickly I have taken it back.