Hello there! Before I get started, I just wanted to introduce myself, my name is Carley Marie Ryckman and I am Miss Sierra Nevada 2015. If you want to follow my year, check me out on Instagram at @misssierranevada or my website: www.misssierranevada.com
You haven’t heard from me on this blog yet because…I just couldn’t figure out what to write about. And then, a few days ago, my 4 year-old niece Remy handed me the topic on a silver platter. So, thanks to Remy, here I am.
I am aunt to 6 nieces, ranging in age from one to eighteen. I absolutely adore them. I am constantly in awe of how unique, beautiful, funny, and lovely they each are. Hannah, Haley, Louisa, Remy, Ellie, and Norah are my world. Some of my nieces live close to me but Remy lives across the country.
Thanks to technology, we FaceTime pretty regularly. Sometimes for nearly an hour (or more). Other times, just long enough for her to realize her law school student of an aunt is much less interesting than her spider(wo)man costume and that picture she is coloring. Quite frankly, on those days, I can’t blame her.
Just the other day, Remy was showing me her Monster High School doll that my parents sent her for Valentine’s Day. This doll had purple skin and bright, BRIGHT red hair…and maybe cat ears? Trying to be funny, I said something like, “Wow, Remy! Look at her! What would you do if I looked like that? Would you take me to the hospital?” Her response: “No, my silly Carley!!! I would not take you to the hospital! I would think you were so beautiful. SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!!!”
Those words out of that giggly little girl set my mind on fire. Articles, studies, videos, documentaries flood social media and the internet at large: apparently we as a society are sending our girls the wrong messages…about everything. But are we really? Or are we doing something right? …because Remy just told me her purple doll with crazy hair and animal ears is beautiful, and later, the most beautiful doll she has ever had. Yet I’m pretty sure Remy isn’t striving to be purple with cat ears. And even if she was, she would feel beautiful about it. Although I may not see these six very often, as their aunt, I strive to do everything in my power to make sure they know that there is at least one person out there (silly aunt Carley) who thinks that they are beautiful, talented, smart, funny, creative, loved…because they each are in their own unique ways.
I think it would be safe to say that the world my nieces are growing up in is quite different than we’ve ever seen before. Undoubtedly, this comes with both positives and negatives. Technology allows them, before they can even fully read, to be able to access a wealth of knowledge. At the tap of a screen, by pressing my picture, they can talk to and see their aunt who lives in an entirely different time zone. However, negative ideas and images are just as easily accessible.
I would argue that the world is currently pushing towards love, acceptance, and equality. My nieces will likely, I hope, grow up in communities that are more diverse than I’ve ever seen before. The “Ideal American Family” is changing. Daily, on social media, I come across articles about acceptance, love, and beauty. About the “real woman”, the “not photoshopped woman”, the “this is a beautiful woman” because of x, y, and z. I’ve been tagged (6 times) in the “20 beautiful women challenge”. Every single time, I think about my nieces. To me, they reflect the larger contingent of young women we as titleholders (really, we the world at large) come into contact with each day. What I want for them is what I want for our world as a whole.
I am the aunt to the little girls mentioned. Not their parent or teacher. I don’t see them everyday. I am someone who has been around as they’ve grown up as a playmate or a pool buddy or a “grown up” who lets them play in her jewelry…sometimes. Someone who knows how to play board games and who will sing and/or act out Disney movies with you at the top of her lungs. Because I’m not a parent, I can’t claim to have it all figured out but here is what I have decided.
As members of the digital age, there is a message that we have the responsibility of sending to our girls through our face-to-face and digital interactions. I hope it is the same message my nieces take away from both their times with me and watching me live my life.
You are beautiful: Inside and out—It does not matter if you are purple or green or black or white or…You are beautiful. YOU are beautiful. Although society often views beauty as something on the outside, it starts from within. No amount of makeup or jewelry or surgeries will change your beauty. While the images you are seeing might reflect something entirely different, you are just as beautiful without any makeup and that black eye from soccer practice as you are when you’re all dressed up and headed out the door to prom. I’m not kidding.
Along with that, love your body—eat right and stay active doing something you enjoy but have that birthday cake. You should never deprive yourself. Some people who love their body have curves, other people who love their body are stick thin. No one should make you think that your body isn’t perfect just the way it is. If you are active and maintaining a balanced diet, you are not “too skinny” and you are not “too fat”.
You are enough—there will be days where you feel like you just can’t do anything right and if you had to choose today, your career ambition would be laying in your bed in a ball. That being said, you are good enough, strong enough, smart enough. Life isn’t always easy but you have what it takes.
You can do ANYTHING—you are blessed to live in a time where women have more opportunities than ever before. I for instance, can go to law school and become a lawyer. That used to not happen. However, the fact that I can be a lawyer or one of my female friends can become a doctor or a website designer doesn’t make it less okay to be a teacher or a seamstress or anything else. We have choices and we should freely and openly embrace them. It might not always be easy to “do anything” but if you want it badly enough and put in the work and the time (sometimes for a very long time), it will be yours.
You should be YOU, unapologetically—The media gives out a bunch of ideas about the way “people” say you should be to be beautiful, smart, successful, whatever…You should be yourself and like who and what you like. It is okay to like pink. It is okay to hate pink. Wear basketball shorts. Cut your hair off. Wear a cute dress. Grow your hair out. Who you are, what you look like, who you love, what you love, what career path you choose, does not define your worth. Feel beautiful, be happy.
Thank you for reading my post! I hope it gave you some food for thought from a very silly aunt of 6 incredible young ladies who inspire me to be my best self everyday.