Location: Will Rogers Stadium, Ft. Worth, Texas USA - November 2018.
My husband and I walked in the door because we couldn't find the place we really wanted to go to and I found the cathedral of my soul.
I enlisted in the Army in 1992 and took my place along with all the other women as an Officer Cadet at the Australian Defence Forces Academy. I had absolutely no clue at the time what I, and the other women I enlisted alongside, had signed up for.
It took me a long time, and many bumps, breaks and bruises to really recognise the calibre of the women who sign on to serve. We young women all worked out fairly rapidly that, right or wrong, we constantly had to prove our right to be there. We also knew that we were subject to a very different set of cultural and moral expectations to the young men. Many of us would spend a lifetime looking in the mirror seeing a woman who very definitely "looked the part" but always fell somewhat short of being the real thing. Imposters who were our own worst critics who learned the practice in the very best school.
But you have to understand - these women were and are tough - not tough as in "lift big weights and spit tobacco" tough but tough where it counts. Stumble and fall but keep going anyway tough. Never give up on a friend tough. Get smacked down by the culture but stay true to your mate tough. Be let down by someone but still stand by her tough. Carry a mate when her bucket is empty tough. Remind her what she is good at when every other bastard is telling her she doesn't measure up tough. Hand her the tissues when she finally breaks and cries herself out tough.
Women who can and will stand with you through anything for the rest of your life.
And I had no idea what that was worth.
I had no idea what I was worth - because no matter what I achieved - I only ever "looked the part".
Until I accidentally walked into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth Texas.
That's right - a whole institution dedicated to celebrating and promoting the achievements of women. I've been a museum nut most of my life - but I had never seen or heard of anything like "The Cowgirl".
Don't let the name fool you. Alumni include a Rear Admiral, a world famous physicist, the nineteenth century founder of an international shipping company still trading today, America's first woman banker, the first woman paramount Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the woman who saved the Bison herd. Educators, philanthropists, rodeo riders, entertainers, politicians, homemakers, nuns.
Women who did what needed to be done and ignored the people who told them they weren't good enough, or that they had no right to be doing what they were doing.
Women just like me.
The next time I looked in the mirror I no longer saw an imposter.
I saw the real damned thing.
Call HERE if you want to tell me your story.