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“She can’t get married. She can’t have kids.”

Stories of 17-year-old Alyssa Carson filled my social media when she shared her dream of being the first person to step foot on Mars. NASA is already training her to be an astronaut, and she is the first person to complete the NASA Passport Program, having visited all 14 NASA Visitor Centers.

And yet, despite her intelligence and achievements, the headlines I saw were comments on her inability to get married and have children because of her demanding position with NASA.

Some people believe that if a woman experiences any kind of success outside of the home, her validity as a woman is void.

We at Scroll believe everyone deserves equal opportunities in life — and no one has the right to limit someone else’s dreams. We cannot let another person’s words or actions stop us from pursuing our own dreams.

When I decided I wanted to be a journalist, I asked a man I deeply respected for some advice. He told me I could be a journalist, or I could be a wife and mother. It devastated me.

Luckily, such unfortunate experiences have been scarce during my time at BYU-Idaho. This school offers countless opportunities for men and women alike to rise to the occasion as disciple leaders.

Unfortunately, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stick to what they themselves define as “normal” or “acceptable.”

We celebrate the differences between men and women. We also celebrate the differences among women and the differences among men.

We as members of the Church need to recognize that if our Church leaders do not condemn women working outside the home, neither should we.

Everyone will take a different path in their life whether you agree with their choices or not. We must escape our cultural bubbles that might have us believe that familiar is right and different is wrong. Unless we do this, we will never be able to improve or grow.

BYU-I gives us the chance to explore beyond that bubble, to discover and pursue our passions ­— whether that be in the home, in a field or across the ocean. It offers Scroll, Student Activities and various programs around campus every day that challenge us to be more and do more each day.

Scroll took me in as a clueless freshman trying to find a purpose in my education. Editors, advisers and professors saw some worth in me as a writer, and they taught me how to hone that skill. As time progressed, they gave me the opportunity to be a leader and mentor for others.

As I prepare to say goodbye to BYU-I and all the opportunities I have had on this campus, I feel confident knowing that this small town of Rexburg, Idaho, has prepared me to face the world.

But I know I will still face challenges as a working woman.

The Pew Research Center reported that 42 percent of women in the workforce still face discrimination because of their gender, while men are not guaranteed to be completely free of discrimination. The same report found that women are more than twice as likely to struggle with gender discrimination.

That being said, gender discrimination is not the only thing that might keep us from living to our full potential.

Wherever we are in our degrees and careers, we can all expect one thing: we will have times when we want to give up.

Someone or something will try to convince us we don’t have what it takes or we’re wrong for wanting what we want.

We might be too afraid to try something.

Two years ago, I didn’t plan on applying for a job with Scroll. I didn’t believe I had what it took. Fellow reporters seemed so much more talented than me; my editors left shoes I couldn’t possibly fill.

Someone believed in me, and he convinced me to apply. Two years later, it has made all the difference.

When someone’s ideas of what’s right or what’s normal get in the way of your own dreams, use their words as fuel to move forward.

Everyone is unique and has something special to offer, which means everyone has something to teach and something to learn. So let’s celebrate what makes us different.

You don’t have to understand why a 17-year-old girl is putting a husband and children on hold to leave a footprint on Mars. You don’t have to understand why a man would choose to be a stay-at-home dad or why a woman would want to go to work and raise a family.

You also don’t get to decide that your definition of what’s “right” or what’s “normal” is the best definition.

Ask yourself what it means to be a disciple leader. Open your heart to new challenges and opportunities.

Have courage. Have hope. Be bold. And, most importantly, be kind.

Take advantage of the opportunities available to you here at BYU-I to do things that push you. It’s OK to be scared of what’s ahead. Be afraid. And do it anyway.

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