My name is Lainey Hutchison and I am 23 years old. I come from a little town called Dundalk. Anytime that information is disclosed, you usually get the same reaction. Yes, Dundalk may be a little rough around the edges and some behavior that transpires there may be a bit questionable; none the less, Dundalk is home and it is where I learned most of life’s greatest lessons. I learned how to work hard, push through tough times, and most importantly… how to love. I am one of 7 children. Like many people, I come from a broken home. I am 1 of 4 on my mother’s side and also 1 of 4 from my father’s side.
This is significant because normally it is assumed that a child from this type of home environment means emotional damage and serious baggage. Perhaps this could be true, however, coming from such a family arrangement and having millions of sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents means that there is an extensive amount of room for the most abiding love. It means always having someone to watch your back and to make sure you’re well taken care of.
It meant not only having a mother, but have other powerful women in my life to help me realize my potential in a town where no one ever leaves.
Dundalk is like the plague. Everyone went to the same high school, married their high school sweethearts, had children, their children went to the same high school…. it becomes a habitual cycle with no escape. You can’t go to your local CVS without seeing your Aunt Shirley’s neighbor, your first grade teacher, or your ex boyfriend (the one you cringe even thinking about.)
I guess this matters so much to me because late August 2014 I lost the most influential woman in my entire life.
I lost my mother, Heather Powell, to an asthma induced heart attack at the age of 42. Your mother is your mentor, your best friend, and your therapist. My mother wanted nothing more than to see me get the hell out of dodge and make something with my life.
Over millions of anxiety-induced text messages in fear of what the future may hold for a young 20-something who is just figuring stuff out; I would spill my heart out to my mother.
“Mom, I am going to fail nursing school and I’m going to be stuck.”
“Mom, I am going to be a lonely woman who lives with all of her cats because no one loves me.”
“Mom, I really don’t like myself today.”
and she ALWAYS shut down those moments of insecurity with truth.
She taught me mental health is so extremely important to get a handle on.
It was real, and the advice came from a woman who endured it firsthand.
She said, “Babe, I know school is hard but you can do It.” and, “Babe, you are beautiful and I am so proud to be your momma.” and things like, “And if anyone thinks otherwise, screw em.” I didn’t know how very important these self-confirming messages would be in my life until I didn’t receive them from her anymore.
My mother grew up in a broken home herself. She didn’t receive the love she deserved from her father, and she didn’t receive it from the men she decided to let into her life and heart.
Losing her took a long time to even begin to minimally accept. It took a long time to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart and unstable mind.
I’ve also had an aunt who undeniably has been the greatest role model a girl can have. My Aunt Racee is a Stage 2 B Cervical Cancer survivor. She was diagnosed at the age of 23. She has played a significant role in my life as another mother figure.
She taught me what it means to be a strong woman. Life can do terrible things to you, like deprive you of your ability to bear children. She made me realize there is nothing too big or small you can’t overcome. When bad things try to get you down, you can fight it. You can always fight it. There is so much strength in the woman that you are and you should be proud of it. No man or no other being can take that away from you. No one can take your love, your faith, your intelligence, or your dignity.
She is the kind of person who exudes the most powerful kind of love. So much love that sometimes it intimidates people who are not used to something so pure. She is a person who has been through it and who has remained beautifully poised and successful. She has been a person that I have tried to mirror in many aspects of my life.
I was so incredibly lucky to have all of the influential women that I’ve had in my life. I want the world to celebrate the kind of women we have in our lives and to try to make a concentrated effort to promote those strong characteristics. We all need to stand together and teach young women what it means to take a bite out of the world and do all of the things that were once unimaginable.
I’m grateful I got to learn this and if I am meant to be on this world simply to relay this message for generations of women to come, so be it.
To the future sisters of the world—
- NEVER SETTLE. You were not put on this Earth to abide by the social conditions of this society. If there is something you truly want, promise me you will go out and do it. This life is a short one, an extremely short one. Do the things you want to do for you. (As long as you are not hurting anyone, of course.)
- LOVE LIKE ITS ALL THERE IS. Love everything that you do. Love everything that you experience. Love whatever higher being you believe in. Love the way the rain feels on your skin. Love the way your sister brings up inside jokes so you can bear sitting through family functions. Love your job. Love this world and all of its inhabitants. AND NEVER FEEL GUILTY FOR THE WAY YOUR EYES SHINE WHEN YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT THE THING YOU LOVE THE MOST. Never feel ashamed for loving your significant other, whoever it may be. Things in this life will try to steal the love right from your heart and only leave you feeling empty… DO NOT ALLOW IT.
- CALL YOUR FAMILY. Let them know how much they mean to you. Lend them an ear and a shoulder to cry on. Always photograph great moments, or write them down. You’ll be happy to have them when those people are no longer in your life. You will cherish those phone calls, even if it’s just to ask how their day is.
- OTHER GIRLS ARE NOT YOUR COMPETITION. STAND WITH THEM, NOT AGAINST THEM. Women have had to conquer many challenges such as reproductive rights, unfair work wages, sexual harassment, abuse, violence, judgment, and other pressing issues. The time is NOW to stand up together and change the way the world views women. Lead by example, stand up for yourself when you need to. When phrases such as, “She’s a crazy girl” or “It must be that time of the month” are being used to explain a woman’s strong and assertive behavior, challenge that behavior.
Above all, please know that there are people who are just like you out there. You’re never alone, even when you feel like it. Know that I am out here and you are on my mind. I hope you never second guess yourself and if you do, listen to my voice in your head.
“You are beautiful.” “You matter.” and “You can do it.”
All of my love, always.
Lainey Hutchison (23), from Dundalk Maryland, is an aspiring nurse currently taking college courses at the Community College of Baltimore County. She is a secretary at a local hospital and a waitress in Highlandtown. When she is not spending time with family and friends, Lainey enjoys listening to old Otis Redding albums while painting as well as checking out local artists and musicians. She is a fervent feminist, loves her community and is avidly trying to get involved with more local causes and volunteer organizations.