I’m SO blessed because my entire life has felt like one long empowering women’s circle. Every woman in my family is a strong, powerful, can do, make it work, pushing the envelope, outspoken about women being kind, fair, intelligent leaders kind of woman. Every Kojola, Berger, Ahrens, Martin, Murray and Meek woman I know is a stellar example of exactly the kind of woman I am and strive to be every day.

To all of my sisters, mothers, grandmothers, friends and teachers…thank you! I’m blessed to have gone to schools that taught me that women of all ages can and should lead, speak out, run for office, vote, stand up for themselves and others, and be merciful to all humans. I so grateful that I never lacked for positive female or male role models to look up to.

Even with all this support around me, I struggle to find my own voice. With all my privilege, I sometimes feel small, marginalized, overlooked, underestimated and ignored. I still feel the wrath of those who would assault, violate, put down, and demean me for being a woman. I can, and shudder to, imagine what so many others, not as fortunate as I, have felt, endured, survived and risen above.

I can feel the seething rage of the souls that so deeply misunderstand and reject that which they cannot accept. It’s unfathomable to me what could be so threatening about a strong woman, a beautiful, rich skin color, or variations of gender and sexuality. I try to understand the deep roots and socio-entanglements of this extreme prejudice that persists. It’s been 110% bullshit since day 1 and we all can feel it in our bones.

The violence and unfairness in our world is heart breaking, and yet we humans are NOT a lost cause. Hearts are opening all the time. Healing is happening around the clock. People are choosing life, love, acceptance, peace, and letting go every day. I’ve seen it happen. It’s real and it works.

There’s a lot to feel and I’m grateful to be able to feel it all. I’m thankful to be alive, to be safe and sane, to have a voice, a heart, a brain and a life that I can use to move forward, to be a role model, to join the ranks of those who will not be quiet, not sit down or shut up, not move to the back of the bus, never cower in silence, never turn the other cheek, never excuse or minimize, never blame the victim or sweep it under the rug.

Say it, scream it, tell your story, let it out, let it go, heal, live, forgive, do your life the way you like it and be unapologetically you.

Cristina Gottardi

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