by Cheng-Ling Chen
Creator and writer, HERliograph.com
When I was a corporate attorney many years ago, I worked with tall, well-bred, smart, Caucasian men. I wasn’t like the status quo. I had worked hard to get my law degree from a top law school, and I was well-liked by my colleagues and clients. Still I kept wondering, what would it feel like to be a real lawyer?
When I became a mom, I made a very conscious choice to stay at home with my children. I was fortunate that I could, and every fiber of my being bound me to my babies. Nursing them, carrying them, tending to their every need, I was completely done and undone by motherhood. I remember once again feeling deeply isolated. I saw few moms like me. On the playgrounds, at the grocery store, even at mommy groups, I saw mostly nannies of different ethnicities, a few grandmothers, and very rarely mothers. The women of my stage in life whose friendships I craved to make were elsewhere working hard and forging their careers. I wondered, was I a lesser woman because I could and did spend all my days with my babies?
Having grown up Taiwanese in South America I am no stranger to being an outsider, but it’s still disorienting. I move through a world that is different from what I believe to be true to me, like standing in front of a mirror constantly reflecting a stranger back, jarring each time even if I have come to expect it. I refused to let this mirror erode my sense of self. Instead of accepting the obvious, I looked harder for clearer reflections.
I approached women who were in their own way also going against the grain to stay true to themselves. I asked about their stories. How did they know their authenticity and retain their sovereignty when the world pointed them away from their internal compass? One woman shared with me her struggle with eating disorders and finding her healing path by devoting her life to helping others with mindful eating. Another shared her harrowing childhood growing up with albanism in Africa, congenitally devoid of pigment, abandoned and persecuted, told over and over that she was going to fail, disappear, and die. Mirror, mirror, it lies. Strong and iridescent, she grew up to found an organization in Kenya that educates and supports families with albanistic children. Still other women have shared with me about their passions, how their artistry has brought social justice to the world because they didn’t give up or back down in the face of disbelief and ridicule. I found woman after woman, brave, beautiful and authentic in her own way, each heeding her inner voice. Even with loud voices to the contrary everywhere shouting her down, my heroines say with fortitude that it is the world that is distorted, not them.
I created HERliograph to reflect the light of everyday heroines so that through celebrating the beauty in each other we may come to embrace ourselves more clearly and shine our own light. Along the way I have learned:
amazing stories are everywhere but you won’t find them looking to the
amazing stories are everywhere but you won’t find them looking to the obvious or listening to the loudest
the heroic can be found in the large and small
we each have an inner knowing, and when we tune in, it leads us towards our light
being afraid is the first step toward a heroic path
meaningful connection with each other leads to growth and greatness
At HERliograph we believe in women everywhere shining their light, reflecting and sustaining our humanity.