I got the chance recently to watch this inspiring TED talk by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, where she talked about how the society raises girls to be perfect and boys to be brave. How boys are allowed to try, fail, break stuff and build it again, while girls were expected to be perfect, and that ends up affecting their skills and behaviours in their future life.
Coding, it’s an endless process of trial and error, of trying to get the right command in the right place, with sometimes just a semicolon making the difference between success and failure. Code breaks and then it falls apart, and it often takes many, many tries until that magical moment when what you’re trying to build comes to life. It requires perseverance. It requires imperfection.
That made me think of my childhood. I remember how my dad gave me full authority to be brave and adventurous. I have three brothers but I was the loudest, the strongest, the most curious, and the one who would push the swing the highest to the sky when we went to the playground.
I would fight with them and they knew they weren’t allowed to hurt me in any way and I kind of abused this power to my favor. Whenever anyone of them would go crying and complaining to my dad, he would just smile and try to make it up for them. He wanted me to be able to defend myself and not allow anyone to hurt me. He raised me brave.
Whenever anyone asked my dad how many kids do you have, he would sarcastically answer: “ I have 3 girls and a boy” referring to me as the boy. And this answer always cheered me up. I even used to tease my brothers by saying “HAHA he called you girls!” as if being a girl is an insult. Now when I grew up, I realized how ridiculous this “complement” was.
I realized this the most when I wasn’t a child anymore, when I became a woman. When I was not allowed to be the loudest anymore. When my endless questions were prohibited and considered a sin. I couldn’t argue anymore. No more running and discovering. No more fighting with my brothers, they are stronger now and they are the ones who could protect me. I am a woman. I am supposed to be weak, and a reason for my dad to always be worried.
I had to adjust to a new style of life where I wasn’t allowed to be brave anymore. I should be a quiet normal stay-at-home girl and focus on studying. This was a huge turn in my life but I never gave up. The little brave girl inside me was still loud and curious. I couldn’t simply make her “un”brave. I was still determined to be the best but I had to think of another way to do so. It was almost during the same time when my family bought a computer at home. That was my new friend. I spent hours trying to discover it. I clicked on each and every single icon on that system. (You can guess it was not connected to the internet by then!). I felt satisfied feeding my curiosity, but it kept asking for more. After several attempts to convince my parents to get an internet connection, I successfully opened a whole new world to discover. I developed a new interest for websites, and of course, I needed so badly to understand how they actually worked. I still remember my first modest programming project using Microsoft FrontPage (it no longer exists now). I decided to build an HTML website for my high school. I started learning by dragging & dropping, taking a sneak peek at what was going on in the back end and what is being generated by every action I did.
My curiosity led me to study Engineering. I ended up graduating as a Software Engineer, going into many adventures and now living in Galway where I never thought I will be. This degree at some point saved my life during the Syrian war and I will always be grateful for having it.
Even though my over protective dad was strict at some points, but I owe it to him that I am who I am today.
I am brave.