By Ruthie Lestikow
In the last eight months I have struggled more with my personal identity than in the previous four decades combined. As International Women’s Day approaches, and in the midst of Women’s History Month, I found it fitting to try and put some of these reflections on paper. From a young age I identified myself as an independent person. Growing up in rural Colorado I was taught that it was important to be self-sufficient. My dad was the biggest promotor of this value. Although, I never got the chance to ask him I think his motivations for driving this point home were more for economic reasons than for promoting feminism. Either way, I learned how to change a car tire on my own, change my own oil in my car, weld, drive a split transmission truck, split wood and build the family dog house. With the unwavering support of my mom my self-realization as a self-reliant, strong woman continued to manifest even after I moved away from my beloved rural Colorado hometown.
Thanks to this upbringing I vowed to never have to be dependent upon anyone. Having financial independence is of the upmost importance to me personally. Even after receiving the Boettcher Scholarship, I continued to work while going to college so that I could save money. As I got older, I not only gauged my sense of self-worth in how much I was in the black but also in how hard I worked in my profession as a physician assistant. At any social event when asked to tell a little bit about myself my first response included what I did for work.
These two main points of financial independence and hard work ethic became even more important to me to continue cultivating after having children. It is important to me to model independence and hard work to both my daughter and son.
So here comes the struggle part: My husband and I moved to Medellin, Colombia in South America in July, 2021 to expose our children to a different culture, help them (and me!) learn Spanish and have a family adventure while they are still fairly young and like to hang out with us. I am not able to work as a physician assistant here in Colombia. I therefore am relying financially on my husband who is able to work remotely and on our savings.
The two biggest pillars of the structure of my self-worth have crumbled. So, now how do I gauge my self-worth? What kind of role model am I for my daughter and son? What do I say at social events now after, “Hola! Soy Ruth, mucho gusto.”?
Time to put my rural Colorado skills back to work and rebuild. Time to redefine my role as a woman in my world. To me this is a huge theme in celebrating International Women’s Day. Redefine history’s definition of a woman. It’s a time to celebrate women’s achievements, to influence behavior, to smash stereotypes and continue to challenge bias. So how do I do all this as a stay-at-home mom who is now dependent upon her extremely supportive family?
I don’t have the answer. But I have started drafting a blueprint on just how to do this thanks to some wonderful insight from the most influential woman in my life, my mom. She speaks of finding out what makes you truly happy in the world. Once you have this figured out, how do you make it apart of your routine? If financially you need to work, how do you make money doing what you love?
The move to Colombia has made me realize that it wasn’t the work that made me happy, that gave me my sense of self-worth. It was more the sense of giving back to my community. Before, I was able to provide medical care to try and improve peoples’ lives in the community of South Denver. Now, I am giving back to the community by helping to raise two happy, generous and internationally minded citizens. I am also working on giving myself some grace when I need to ask for help. Turns out, it can be ok to not be so stubbornly independent. Those who love you can be your best support.
The pillars of my structure of self-worth look a little different now, but they are well on their way to supporting a new identity for myself. As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year on March 8th I hope you can find what makes you happy and make it apart of your routine.
As an alum, did you know you can donate to the Boettcher Foundation Scholarship Program? If you are inspired to do so, your support can help us create additional academic, intellectual, and leadership opportunities for undergraduate Scholars. Learn more here.