Amelia & I

Amelia & I

by marlies|dekkers

I have been called ‘crazy’ many times in my life. When I rejected my parents’ expectations to become a housewife. (“You’re deluded.”). When I applied for a prestigious art school. (“You’re crazy.”). When I decided to start a lingerie brand, designed completely from a woman’s point of view (“Who wants that?”). And they were right: what I wanted was often batshit crazy. But it seemed even crazier NOT to do it. If you want to be the pilot of your own destiny, you have no choice. You face the empty sky and fly off into the unknown.

Amelia Earhart wanted to be the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. They called her crazy and reckless. She shrugged them off with her gaptoothed smile and did it anyway. “Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?”, she would say afterwards. Growing up, Amelia was my swashbuckling heroine. Standing defiantly on the wing of her plane in her jodhpurs, leather jacket and lace-up boots, Amelia was equal parts Pipi Longstocking and Marlene Dietrich. She exuded both grit and grace. She personified the freedom I craved.

Women need heroes, but they’re still hard to find. So, we treasure them. Amelia kept a scrapbook called ‘Activities of Women’ where she collected newspaper and magazine articles about remarkable women: a female police commissioner, the first Englishwoman to win an engineer’s certificate. I kept a scrapbook too, and of course Amelia was in it. Yes, she broke many records, but what moved me most was her motivation to do so. Amelia flew because she thought that women should do things men had done, and not done. “I want to do it because I want to do it,” she once wrote unapologetically. She flew for herself, for the sheer fun of it. Which was, and still is, a heroic stance for a woman to take.

There is a saying I love: ‘All things are sweetened by risk’. Amelia inspired me to jump into the unknown, but she also taught me how to embrace the thrill of the freefall: with my eyes wide open, accepting the inevitable risks. During her attempt to fly around the world in 1937, Amelia wrote to her husband: “Please know that I am aware of the hazards.” If she failed, it would be a challenge to others, she insisted. A few days later, Amelia disappeared somewhere above the Pacific Ocean.

Yes, risks are real; I found that out as soon as I started my own business. But I have never let that stop me. We talk about equal rights and brag about being badass, but to truly ‘woman up’, we cannot run away at the first signs of trouble. Instead, when the going gets tough, we should think of Amelia’s words: “In pioneer flying, one has to take the rough with the smooth.”

Everything starts with a dream. My own dream, when I started my marlies|dekkers all those years ago, was to empower women. Since then, using my motto ‘Dare to dream, dare to grow, dare to be’, I have helped many women unlock their potential. But it still seems hard for us to ‘dream crazy’; to be shameless about our deepest desires. Too often, we edit our wishes before we fully acknowledge them. As we fly into the future of feminism, Amelia’s message is more relevant than ever: “Women, like men, should try to do the impossible.” Yes, there’s a price to be paid for following your crazy dreams. I have had to let go of securities, sometimes even of people I loved dearly. But when I am flying solo in the night, I don’t feel lonely. I know Amelia is out there somewhere too, reaching for the stars.

Dare to dream bigger and bolder. — Marlies Dekkers

 

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