One of the topics I teach in my Quantitative Reasoning class is the calculation of a retirement savings goal. It is always shocking to my students how much money they will need to save in order to live comfortably in their retirement. However, as daunting as the goal may seem, I emphasize that it is important to begin to put some of what we earn away into a safe fund so we can draw on it in the future, when we need it. I found myself thinking of this concept recently when I attended a track meet in which my daughter and her young friends competed. I had to laugh when she asked me after her meet "did you like to run when you were a kid, too, mom?" I had to explain to her that when I was young, the idea of girls as athletes was quite new, and that I didn’t have the opportunities that she does. I was, after all, nine years old when Title IX was put into effect.
I was excited to see my daughter and her various friends compete in all the events of this meet, with many running and jumping at speeds and distances that brought them scores that the coach recorded as “personal records.” But I was most moved when watching the running long jump, as I could stand close to the athletes and see their faces as they prepared to run and jump. I wish there was a way to capture and keep some of the intensity and confidence that I saw on the faces of those young girls. Like the savings accounts for retirement, I am sure that it would be put to good use in the future.
I recall the look of focus in the eyes of the jumpers before they moved their feet to run toward the jumping pit, and I wish there was a way to save that intensity for the times when they will again face a difficult challenge. I hope they could draw from that reserve of focus when they, someday, will be attending new schools, perhaps high schools or colleges, and will need to once again set new goals for themselves. I hope that they remember the times that they were able to succeed at these difficult tasks, and because of their past success, will know that they can succeed again.
I recall the look of confidence the girls showed in what their bodies could do, a confidence well earned, as many of them had just run what amounted to a total of several miles. I hope that they can draw from this confidence as they grow into womanhood, and never doubt how amazing their bodies are, no matter what skewed values society puts on them due to their shapes or sizes. I hope that they can always remember the feeling of being in awe of what their bodies can do, and that, if nothing else, their muscles remember the feeling of running with all their might.
And I recall the look of pride they had as they landed in the sand pit, placing their feet as far from the end of the track as possible. I hope that they can remember that feeling as they venture out into life, and never hesitate to leave their mark on the world.
Alas, I didn’t have the same opportunities to participate in sports as a young girl, but I wish I had. I can see as I watch my daughter that there are many good lessons to be learned there, and that I would have amassed a wealth of confidence and self-knowledge that I could have drawn on in later years.
I am just glad that my daughter has this opportunity today.