What a week for reflection! It started with me sorting through boxes of long forgotten photos and ended watching with the Women’s Marches around the world. I got to thinking about what I’d like to whisper in my 17 year old ear, and sharing that with other young women. More than ever, it’s important that we champion each other and stand strong together as a confident united voice. 

Me at 17 on the ferry to the Gulf Islands, BC

At 17, I thought I could do, and be, anything I wanted. I can’t imagine why women around the world would have had to march today demanding equality and basic human rights. I’ve never known any different. I was a headstrong, ambitious, smart teenager – but not as fearless, engaged and clever as many young women are now. I was thrilled to see so many of them around the world marching (thank you Instagram for the vision). I would like to have warned my 17 year old self that the future wasn’t always going to be safe and progressive. Get involved (it’s not too late) and have a voice in your community, both locally, nationally and globally. Be vigilant to make sure that what you take for granted (reproductive rights, a voice in government, healthcare) stays that way for all young women. I didn’t have a global perspective then. I thank social media, and blogs now, for keeping news and activism in the forefront. 

My Grade 12 graduation portrait

My high school graduation notes read: “Lisa, a fearless Annual Editor, could be seen racing deadlines or harassing other students. This did not stop her from being an active member of Council and a rowdy Hi-Yer. [pep squad member] Lisa is off to Los Angeles in the fall (if she ever learns to pack her own suitcase) to design her own line of designer fruit pants.

Follow your dreams but take your brain with you. My friends teased me about the clothes I made – the pants with a fruit pattern as noted above! My parents and high school teachers expected me to go to law school. Instead, I went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in LA to study fashion buying. I knew that I didn’t have the vision or drawing skills to be a designer but I loved fashion and chose the business route. I never regretted that move. I’ve always been practical but tried to balance that with some risk. Heading to downtown Los Angeles on my own to study fashion set me on that path at 18. It was terrifying, at first, but exhilarating and lit a passion for this industry that has never dimmed.

You don’t have to be everything to all people – you’re not pizza. (I don’t know why that always makes me laugh.) As a teenager, I had ridiculous standards for myself. My high school goal was to be a straight A student (my C+ in Physical Education killed me) and I stopped short of nothing in my mission for perfection – which of course I never achieved. “Cut yourself some slack,” I’d whisper now. It’s something I still remind myself. You’re not, ever, going to be all things to all people. Do what you do best – it’s the fastest path to success and happiness – and lets your creativity truly soar. I’ve always surrounded myself with other people who excel in the areas that I lacked. 

Be open to change and let go of what doesn’t work anymore. I had all kinds of “A-Ha!” moments in my 20s and I’m listening carefully to recognize and embrace those mind-freeing realizations again. Going through my photos and high school annuals, I’m reaching back to that 17 year old’s fresh attitude. The next year is going to be exciting …