The women who better me

by Roxanne Ha

March is a time where the winter starts to thaw a little, as if it is trying to figure out how to transition into the warmer air of spring. It’s a time where there is new growth, where there are new people to meet, where the quarter system has college students scrambling to study for finals and finalize their summer plans. But for me, March is also a time of gratitude. Known as Women’s History Month, March serves as a reminder for me to honor those, especially those women, who have helped and continue to help me find courage and strength to continue marching on.

My mom is the first woman in my life to provide me with a strong foundation of love and support. A Chinese-Vietnamese immigrant in the early ’90s, she has experienced learning a new language and culture, getting a job in America where English is not her mother tongue and raising a family. She is the one who showed me how to write Chinese, how to solve algebraic problems, how to check which vegetable or fruit is best to buy at groceries, how to use a sewing machine and how to drive. She doesn’t usually call me first but whenever I do call, she always wants to hear my updates. When I had to stay late at dance team practices in high school, she packed extra snacks and food so that I could eat them in between breaks. When I felt homesick the weekend after starting university, she picked me up that first Friday and bought cơm tấm for dinner, my favorite Vietnamese dish to eat. When I didn’t understand the vocabulary terms in my real estate class last quarter, she shared her own knowledge and experiences from previously working in real estate to help me better understand the concepts. And whenever it’s New Year’s Eve, she stays up late to dust and clean the entire house because it’s bad luck in Chinese tradition to start the new year with an untidy house. Her love conveyed through her actions percolates through our family and always ensures our positive well-being and security.

Of course, I can’t forget to mention my wonderful younger sister. Spunky, versatile and absolutely hilarious, she has been one of my best friends throughout my entire life — making song lyric references and jokes about my bad habits, giving me pointers on how to stretch out my body (she’s a flexible dancer) and breathe correctly during freestyle swimming, and sharing music and TV shows she loves with me. To those who’ve met her, she’s a lot more reserved than me, but sometimes she feels like an older sister. She’s the biggest fan of my writing and she’ll offer her words of wisdom and perspective on stressful situations I tell her about and encourage me to have more confidence in my body and physical skills. Plus, she gives some of the best hugs ever. The comfort she provides within our family always makes me feel at home, and she inspires me to continue improving my passions and to not be afraid to try new things.

Outside of my family, my close girl friends have also played a pivotal role in shaping who I am and helping me become the best version of myself. I’m the oldest child in my family, so for years I would dream of having an older sister to lean on during my struggles. During freshman year of college, I met Lisa through a mentorship program in a cultural organization. Although I originally joined to get a mentor who could give me professional advice, Lisa quickly became someone who I really enjoyed spending time with and felt comfortable trusting and sharing my personal experiences and struggles with. All of our conversations, ranging from our academic interests to our values and our relationship issues, have always left me with more wisdom and a sense of empowerment. Her empathy and self-awareness constantly ground me and motivate me to practice self-reflection and find pride in my authenticity.

Then there’s Selina, my complement. We have been roommates since freshman year of college, and the natural course of our friendship has been one of the biggest blessings in disguise I could ever receive. Throughout college so far, she’s been there to see the gradual shift in my initial shyness to me coming out of my shell, to read some of the most vulnerable pieces I’ve written and respond warmly to them, and to witness the growth in my self-awareness and values. Because our differences complement one another, I’m able to learn and improve so much more from all the lessons and new perspectives I’ve gained in our shared conversations and experiences.

And lastly, I would not be where I am today without the women mentors and teachers I have had to guide me on my journey and allow me to expand my knowledge and intellectual curiosity. Ever since I was little, I went to Chinese school every Saturday afternoon because my parents said learning Mandarin is a useful skill. My teacher, Ms. Annie, was every student’s favorite. She was firm and tireless. Every week, there would be a test to take, sometimes even multiple, with some being individual and others being with a randomly assigned group. But she was also very supportive. I remember when some of the older guys in high school would sneakily ask her questions during the test to try and sweet talk her into giving hints on some of the questions. She would always smile knowingly, aware of their tactics, but her nurturing nature always came forth in the end, and she’d review the terms we struggled with. She also would give us mini prizes, like small snacks, keychains and stationery items, for scoring high consistently on exams. It was moments like these that made me feel supported and thankful. Sadly, she passed away several years ago, but her memory still lives on in me and in all the students’ hearts with the way she was able to foster a strong sense of community and camaraderie among all of us.

This past fall, I took a class on intermediate financial accounting with professor Tamara Berges, who was a former auditor and senior tax manager at Deloitte and who currently runs her own tax firm. Coming into the class, I was terrified of the workload and the fast pace of her lectures, but I found myself growing more fascinated with the real-world applications of the topics. Her deep knowledge and expertise helped me realize the importance of accounting in the world and gain a newfound respect for the nature of the work. She was always willing to speak with students about her professional experiences and provide support on their career ambitions and internship recruitment. Professor Berges and her class motivate me to keep working hard and challenging myself and to put my best foot forward in any work that I do.

There are so many other important women who have contributed a lot to my life, as well as in others’ lives and in their communities. Within society and between all the events life has in store for us, we may often forget to recognize the work and the irreplaceable value women bring to the world. But I hope that every March, we can all take the time to celebrate Women’s History Month and honor the women who have been so crucial to our journeys. As a daughter, sister, friend, peer, student and developing professional, I will carry forward with me the lessons I’ve learned from these relationships, and incorporate their love and care for me into the actions I take and the attitude I embody in my life every day.

Featured Image: Various line drawings of women with flowers donning their eyes, over a purple background. Illustration by Yuka Nakayama/BruinLife

You may also like