Anita's Quilt

Anita’s Quilt: Swimming Against the Current Makes You Stronger

In 2012, Ellen Lapham, Carol Muller, and Kathy Richardson set out to memorialize the spirit of inspiration that their close friend Anita Borg brought to their lives. The original project, a community blog known as Anita’s Quilt, showcased the array of people whose lives Anita influenced and energized. This year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Systers—the online community that Anita Borg founded to support women in tech—by republishing some of our favorite Anita’s Quilt stories.

A version of this post was published on Anita’s Quilt on March 13, 2014.

A Note to My Younger Self

by Glusum Demirbas

Dear Gulsum,

If I tell you that you cannot imagine the life you have ahead of you, not even in your wildest dreams, would you believe me? It will be interesting and exciting. 
I realize not all memories you have now are happy — trust me, you will remember every single of them, even the bad ones, later with a smile on your face — and keep them forever. The lessons you are learning, swimming against the current now, will make you stronger, a better person. You are a good student; I am sure you will pay attention!

You know all those times you spent convincing your father to let you continue school? When he said “no, girls should not go to school beyond elementary”? When he said “one bad grade and you are out of school”? And how you talked and talked and finally convinced him, and never gotten anything but As in all your classes? Your convincing skills will help you later, when you need to talk to a team of people about accomplishing what seems to be impossible…

You will have the occasional crisis to deal with, like the time you were stranded in the snow and could not get home until it was too late, knowing your parents were worried sick, Mom’s blood pressure sky rocketing, no telephone in the house to call. Remember how you ended up calling your big brother to come and get you, how your big sister calmed down your parents? That was teamwork at its best, used to resolve a potential crisis. You will enjoy being part of teams doing more of that later.

As much as you want to be a doctor now, your life will turn out differently. You know how much you like to be leading things at school, how you like to manage projects with different groups at different classes? Keep on extending this skill: It is going to help you when you need to manage a team of people to achieve a common goal. You know those days at school when you study hard to beat your own score? Mom’s delicious meal on the stove getting ready for big family dinners? Enjoy every moment, truly indulge in the moment.

You are lucky to have a wonderful father who cared enough to listen to your reasons and change his mind. Not all the girls in your country — actually, in the world — are that lucky. You are lucky to have such close family who support you on your quest. Enjoy all the time you are spending with them now. One day, when your
 parents are gone, you will miss them from the bottom of your heart. One day you will live miles away from home and miss your brother and sister. You will always be thankful for every single opportunity they have given you.

You will do a lot of good things… things that are new for people who come from your background. The fighting spirit and the drive you have now will help you move on your path to success, inch by inch. You will always remember how you didn’t listen to the first serious “no, you can not do this” comment you got from your dad, and how you handled that. You will cut through a lot of other instances of “no, you can not do this” in your life, and you won’t ever stop pushing the envelope for the right things.

With love,
Gulsum

 

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