When I grew up, I was one of the lucky children in the world who got to live in their own little bubble. My biggest problems were centered around my brother spending too much time on the computer, or my sister not letting me borrow all of her clothes. I had (and still have) a happy, supportive family, and I lived in an area completely safe from any real dangers.
It wasn’t until 8th grade, when I read the book The Kite Runner, that I opened my eyes to the world outside of suburban Minnesota. The book is about a boy living in Afghanistan during a revolution, and while the story is fictional, it made me realize that the world was so much bigger and complicated than I had ever realized. I started paying more attention to the world around me, and in high school I joined debate and speech. Through these activities, I learned in-depth about the problems people experience all around the globe.
As I’ve learned more about international wars, food crises, homelessness, and a host of other problems, one question continues to haunt me. “Why me?” What did I do to deserve growing up in a nice 5-bedroom house with a loving family and two dogs, while other kids my age grew up homeless in a war-torn country?
The truth is, I didn’t do a single thing to deserve the life I’ve had, it’s all just pure luck. When both of my grandmas were my age, there were two universities in Minnesota that allowed women, and they were given the option of two majors: education or nursing. Since women’s education has drastically improved in the United States since then, it’s easy to forget that my educational experiences are an exception to the rule. Three out of ten women worldwide are enrolled in secondary school, and I am of the even luckier statistic of women that gets to go to college as well. I was guaranteed a free, high-quality public education until I was 18 years old, and it was expected of me and every girl (and boy) at my high school that we would go to college.
Put my experiences in contrast with Pakistani women, who live in a country with some of the highest gender inequalities. Only 40% of women are literate, whereas I learned to read at such a young age I don’t even remember it. A 15-year-old girl risked her life to go to school, and I thought of school as more of a burden than a danger.
It is so easy to stay in my little bubble in the Midwest suburbs and cute little towns. To not care about school and to brag about not doing homework (which was an extremely common thing to do in my high school). But the thing that keeps me moving forward is reminding myself of how lucky I am, and to work towards providing my own answer to the question “why me”. When I woke up this morning to 28 degree weather at 6:30, I wanted nothing more than to skip class and go back to bed. But I got out of bed after thinking of all of the people who have worked for me to have the opportunities I have. My grandma, who worked her way through a nursing degree in the hopes that her daughters and sons would have the chance to be whatever they wanted to be. My mom and dad, who paid their way through college and started saving for my own college education right after I was born. And I think of the women all around the world, like Malala Yousafzai, who would give anything to have the same opportunities in their own countries that I have here.
So to all of the women (and even the men) reading this blog: I know how annoying homework can be, and that nothing feels worse than going to an 8 AM class in the dead of winter. But once I thought about these problems in the grand scheme of things, going to school didn’t seem all that bad.
For more information on the status of both girls and boys education worldwide, this website is a great place to start (the PDF download is very informative):