Even at the most mundane of times, I have a tendency to reflect on events and circumstances quite a bit. With the end of the year and my extended sabbatical coming to a close, it’s possible I’m doing this even more than usual. What’s most on my mind (perhaps because I’ve been sharing a cabin with 4 highly-educated, self-directed women who grew out of very conservative, borderline-oppressive societies/families), is how incredible the women I’ve met over the last couple years are.

When younger, I often felt that female relationships had a lot of drama, and being ‘busy’ with work most of my friends were in the form of activity partners – other climbers, skiers, runners, etc, 99% men. In the last couple years, however, I’ve met so many remarkable women who totally inspire me, and have helped me to define what’s different about them.

First, every truly remarkable woman (person, for that matter), who I have met is humble. They’ve all gone through periods of insecurity and feeling like they needed to prove themselves. I’m sure everyone goes through this to some extent, but in my circle, they all seem to have done things that were both amazing and ridiculously difficult in order to show they were  worthy to be in the room and stronger to be equal. There is so much rhetoric lately about millennials and their feelings of entitlement. While there is surely some truth in this, I think the opposite is also very true in my generation and those before and after. None of these awesome women felt entitled to anything. Instead, they worked their asses off to chase and make opportunities. But this isn’t what makes them special – what makes them special is that none of them forgot the process after they got through it. None of them forgot what it took to be where they are now, none forgot the uncomfortable silences, the sideways looks, the awkward situations that they had to learn to navigate that were individual to being a woman in those environments. And now, because they haven’t forgotten, they are humble. They remember what it feels like to be unsure, to question  everything, to be seen as a woman before being seen as a colleague/competitor/human. So now they teach and mentor and share and are genuinely nice people. They don’t intimidate with their success, they don’t lead with their history, and they introduce themselves by name, not title.

Another remarkable thing is they don’t gauge themselves by their accomplishments or their wealth, no matter how hard-earned they may have been. They’ve set a new standard for their life, one that isn’t based on external measures of success, but rather on personal fulfilment and the enjoyment and worthiness of a project. Their motivation for doing everything is different. They’re not afraid to risk or to fall or to look stupid because their value system is now internal. Like my girlfriend Libby, who sold her business and all she owned, and invested time and money to do something of intrinsic value (like living at Tikal alone for 2 months, learning new languages and launching an adventure TV show with her husband). Or Sara, who is so young and so awesomely brave. She’s an artist that does all these far-out things, puts herself in crazy environments where she draws inspiration then explodes it all out on paper, regardless of profit or perception. Or Megan, my oldest BFF, who chooses to be at home and raise her three amazing girls, grow her own food, and live life how she wants to. Or the Muisca Princess who has spent her life working to improve the lives of indigenous women all over Colombia, enduring poverty and hardship because it is worth doing.

Simply put, these women aren’t special because they’re super successful by conventional standards (even though usually they are), but because they are nice, they have guts, and they do what they want. I’m not sure why something so simple is so rare.

It’s so crazy to think that my generation of women are really the first to truly own our ability to exercise our rights and freedoms and do what we want, go where we want, be who we want, and generally not-give-a-fuck (though of course, we’re the lucky ones – selected by our birthplace and family). Not just that, but it’s wild to think about the future and what women like these are putting into motion. We’re truly able to change the world, and for girls growing up now, it’s a cool place to be starting from. My growing-up was amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I didn’t know an independent single woman until I became one. There are now so many different models of a fulfilled female life, and this place of independence, freedom, and consciousness is rad. What this will look like for the rest of the world as we are able to live this way, is something cool to think about.