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Charge to Independence

by Lindsay SwisherPEP Young Women's Leadership Council

It seems as if we've reached a place in life where, for the most part, independent women are recognized and celebrated. Look at women such as Mother Teresa, Hillary Clinton, Beyoncé, and many others. Yet even with these strong role models in our lives, are we prepared to brave the world on our own?

Of course, we are not really alone. Most of us have friends, family, or some form of a support system in our lives. Yet every February 14th, those women who believe they are independent feel the waves of depression and loneliness moving closer. How did we manage to build a society that encourages women to be strong, yet simultaneously makes us feel bad for our own sense of independence?

I am a twenty-one year old college student who has never had a serious relationship. I do not make time for lovers. I spend my days excelling in school and taking on leadership roles in my student organizations. I am recognized as the hard-working, independent, feminist that people have grown to love. So when Valentine's Day rolls around, I do not spend time wallowing in the fact that I have no partner with whom to spend the day. I invent some crazy way to celebrate the sense of self that I have developed. For me, this day is a celebration unlike any other. It's a day to reinforce and celebrate the woman I have become.

Yet for many, this day resembles nothing like a celebration. I have watched two of my close friends crumble under the approaching pressure of this "man-made" holiday that is still three weeks away. One friend, who already struggles with self-confidence, throws out claims about how no boy wants her and how she needs to lose weight-both claims of which are false. Another friend, one who recently ended a three-year relationship with her boyfriend, broke down in sobs one day this week from lack of intimate contact.

What happened to the strong females I once saw in my friends? Those waves of loneliness swallowed them whole in the growing buzz of how to spend this year's Valentine's Day. So this February 14th, I encourage you to gather your friends- single or in a relationship- and acknowledge the love you have for yourselves and one another. Go to dinner. Dance around to the Destiny's Child song "Independent Woman". Laugh. Cry. Smile. Love. For how can we truly love others if we cannot love our beautiful, strong, and independent souls first?

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