Welcome, everyone, to the first day of the Stoneleigh-Burnham academic year.
I think a lot of you know by now that I can make riding a bike a metaphor for pretty much anything. Last year at this time, it was about pacing yourself on long hard climbs so you could make the most out of the day, enjoy the views, take a break, and get to know the other riders around you.
This year, I want to talk about taking up space. I’ve noticed over the years that when I’m riding my bike and a car goes past me, it’s actually more dangerous to try to make myself small and move over to the side of the road. When you concede space and make yourself less noticeable, cars think they can just take the whole lane - it’s like you’re not even there. But if you don’t move way over and you go ahead and take up the legal three feet of space, cars will move way over and give you more room. Think about that. By actively and confidently taking up more space, I get more respect.
I challenge all of you this year to think about taking the space you need and deserve. Let’s be clear: I’m not talking about body type or size - that has nothing to do with this. And I’m not talking about creating unnecessary drama to get attention. Let’s face it, in this world sometimes, well, frequently, girls and women internalize the damaging message that we don’t deserve to be fully present and occupying space, whether it’s physical or intellectual. Let’s take a moment and check on how you’re sitting right now. This is for all the students here in this room, but adults, please feel free to join in. Are you sort of apologetically slumping in your seat with your legs tightly crossed and your arms folded? Let’s put both feet firmly on the floor. Stomp your feet. Sit up as tall as you can. Throw your shoulders back. Lift your chin. Let your arms relax. Take a deep breath. Now do the same thing mentally - know that your thoughts, opinions, and dreams are also deserving of all the space in the world and it’s up to you to get them out there. Stoneleigh-Burnham is the kind of place where you are safe to take risks and take up space - so get out there and claim your space this year.