Women making a difference, or women who still believe in making a difference? I had a bit of struggle settling on one for Yakutti’s newest column.

I imagine that at some point life catches up with all of us, steals our time, suppresses our dreams, grows within us a cynical complacency that convinces us into living smaller. I don’t imagine that it happens all at once. I imagine that slowly the compromises accumulate and we trade off possibilities for sure gains. The career path we are on might be different from what we wanted but it is better than unemployment. The traveling we always wanted to do can wait for better credit scores. The partner we are with is insensitive but we are in love. As the list grows, our circles of possibility diminish, and the gains we have traded off our dreams for assume new prominence as we work to preserve that which we have.

I am a mentor to young high school students living in South East Asia and I am often inspired by their ambitions. They want to be presidents and prime ministers. They want to live in Canada and to advance the technological assets of their families’ garment factories. They want to found the next SpaceX and discover new concepts in quantum physics. They have not had to contend with opportunity costs, with realizations that some choices exclude others.

I was tempted to dedicate this column to women who ‘still believe in making a difference’ because that would be inclusive of the choices we make that exclude engagement with cultural, political and socioeconomic issues and because that would still honor the hope and courage it takes to remain optimistic even with disappointing indicators in all things we could care about, including poverty alleviation and gender equality. The phrasing feels unpretentious because it allows us to not act, to not be making a difference, to be quite good ordinary people who believe in a better world but without doing too much about it.

Well, let’s not be quite good and ordinary. Let’s make tradeoffs we are well aware of, let’s keep tabs on our circle of possibility, let us grow uncomfortable with a circle of possibility that is growing too small.

This column embodies those trade-offs for the women making a difference. It acknowledges the significance in the mundane, like the choice about what to wear on demanding days, honors the life-changing decisions we could make, like whose mentorship to fight for, all while recognizing our work towards making a difference.

Here’s to making a difference!

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