Contrary to what Taylor Swift writes in one of her most well-known songs, being 22 is no easy feat—at least not for game-changer Amanda Gorman. From being the youngest inaugural poet to graduating cum laude from Harvard to writing three books, Gorman’s accomplishments can, for some, be equivalent to a lifetime of success. But she’s 22. I admit, this reality may seem intimidating at first; after learning of Gorman’s age, I remember thinking to myself, “22?! At that age, I’ll likely be starting my first real job while still living with my parents.” Upon further reflection, however, I’ve come to view Gorman’s achievements in a different way: as a source of motivation. Here’s why.
Like Gorman, I grew up in the Golden State, yet north of her Los Angeles residence: I call Silicon Valley—a place full of tech giants, start-ups, and some pretty ambitious people—my home. Such a location certainly has its benefits (an average of 70-degree weather year-round...what’s not to love?), but it’s also a challenging place to find work, especially for women. In an already male-dominated workforce, Silicon Valley amplifies gender inequality; take Google, for example. This famed company—whose headquarters reside in the heart of the Valley—has a male-female employment ratio of 70.8% to 29.2% in it’s Mountain View location. Unsurprisingly, 87.1% of Google’s executive positions in this area belong to males. Thus, for a woman living in a place where these aforementioned statistics are the norm, imposter syndrome is real: In an office full of men, where will I fit in? How will my voice be heard?
Gorman, however, has shown the world—and me—that women are capable of greatness at any age and any level. Gorman began writing as a young girl and continued to cultivate her passion throughout her life. By the time she was 16, she had become the first person to be awarded Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles; three years later, she filled the role of the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate. Now, she’s quickly risen to the spotlight, having been hand-picked by First Lady Jill Biden to speak at the Inauguration, performing at the Super Bowl—which was watched by over 91 million people—and participating in a plethora of interviews for major outlets like TIME and The New York Times. When she’s eligible, Gorman plans on running for the presidency.
Put simply, Gorman breaks barriers. And she does so for the women like me: the ones who may feel unwelcome in the workforce, in the classroom, and maybe even in their own home. In Gorman’s inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb,” a line she recited has since stuck with me and, in my mind, accurately portrays a sentiment of strength: “Our people diverse and beautiful will emerge, battered and beautiful.” Battered and beautiful. Such a phrase perfectly summarizes the lives of women on a global scale. Though evidently bruised through centuries of societies catered toward male needs, women are—and always have been—stunning in their ability to persevere, remain ambitious, and prove others wrong. Living through many trials and tribulations—including an auditory processing disorder and a speech impediment—Gorman is living proof that battered women are even more beautiful.
In an interview with former First Lady Michelle Obama, Gorman asserted, “I’m learning that I am not lightning that strikes once. I am the hurricane that comes every single year, and you can expect to see me again soon.”
Though at first intimidating to me by her young age and numerous accomplishments, Gorman has since inspired me to be a storm, powerful and jaw-dropping. No matter your age, your location, or your place in life, I hope you, too, will decide to be a hurricane, unapologetically fierce and powerfully game-changing.