My mother named me Swapna, inspired by a character in a famous Telugu novel. Swapna means dreams. I started to dream when I was very young. As a five-year-old child about having a television at home, as a ten-year-old child about a happier family with less financial turbulence, and as a fifteen-year-old teen about looking prettier. I never wanted to have a professional life. I particularly remember how hard my mother worked and I often wondered WHY. Back then, I would always tell myself, “I will spend more time with my children. Let my husband earn the money”. As a twenty-year-old girl, I dreamt of getting married and having a happy life.It was around the same time the realities of life around me hit me hard. There were many societal issues like domestic violence, sexual harassment, forced or broken marriages, alcoholism, and many more. There were family issues like ignored children, frustrated parents and financial insufficiency. I started to notice the many gender inequalities — some very harsh but some very subtle. Everything was limited around us — be it money or other resources. Some women thrived in spite of all the issues around them with commendable resilience but some always struggled. Despite all the turbulences a family would have, the family with a strong woman made it to the shore.Strong women turned pain into power. These strong women always dreamt of happy families, happy children, and a happy society. They contributed immensely at home or outside — irrespective of their education, experience, or exposure. They just had one dream — to see smiles and happy faces all around them. Keeping their desires aside, these women of substance always strived hard to accomplish their dream. They woke up every day all their lives just to conquer this small dream. Their impact was huge within the families and on society. Other women who lay their fate or fortune in other’s hands had very few choices. Some had decent lives while the others had to suffer beyond imagination. The less-fortunate ones buried their smiles and lived at the mercy of others. I learned very quickly that these issues are all around us.As I looked deeper, I had one important reflection. Strong women lead to strong families and stronger societies! These strong women raised strong children — consciously or subconsciously. It did not matter how these women showed their strength — with or without financial independence. They were strong from within and the world noticed it.It was proven back then; that women leaders can be everywhere; not just in Boardrooms or Corporates. When I was twenty, I dreamt again. My source of inspiration came from wonderful women whom I saw very closely as a child. She thrived through the many obstacles and nasty surprises life has thrown at her. She manoeuvred and juggled through all of them with a lot of grit and determination. Finally, she not only sailed through all the challenges but also brought the entire family to the shore. It was an amazing feat in itself which gave tremendous energy to the many women around her to be like her. I am one among them. This time, my dream was big and life-size. I dreamt of being a woman of substance, courage, and independence. My dream was to become rock-solid from within; coated with loads of love and empathy from outside.I told myself, the world needs a stronger ME. With this dream, I was reborn. Experiencing the power of women around me, I told myself that I have the responsibility to contribute. I cannot sit back and relax, and let fate decide my life. I need to be at the driver’s seat of my life. I felt a deep drive, desire, and passion to make this dream a reality. It took me many years to have an appreciation of why my mother and many other women in my family worked so hard. It is their way of getting prepared to lead from the front, not make any assumptions about what life has to offer and most importantly role-model to the next generation on how we should shape our lives. Coming from a huge extended family with many girl children, these were important lessons for all of us. Some of us learned these life lessons very early and some (like me) learned them late. Today, I am proud that my extended family has many wonderful women who are contributing to smiles and happy faces in their ways — both on the family front and also for the larger good.I felt disadvantaged for not dreaming at the right time. There is always time for everything. Sometimes you have to make it, but sometimes you just have to wait for it. In my case, I had to wait. Making the right and better choices early-on would have given me much stronger footage into my career. I had distractions around me and within. They blocked me to have the right focus at the right time. I was in a relaxed mode all my twenty years of life, which meant I needed a big, strong push in my life. Can I still conquer my dream? I had a feeling I missed the bus. Without losing hope, I continued to invest in my dream.My dream meant that I create a ‘stronger me’, a meaningful career, raise responsible children and contribute positively to society. For that, I had to prepare myself. I put in a lot of hard work and commitment to fulfil my dreams. While I am happy about where I am today, I still regret not doing the right things at the right time. I had to work extra hard because I let my most crucial teen-years pass by without a dream or a passion. I have many moments where I told myself ‘I wish I had done this when I was much younger’.I now have a dream that is larger than life — to create many strong women and girls around me. The world needs more women-power than ever!But I carry the burden of everything that I saw as a child. The childhood experiences are the foundation on which the rest of the lives are built. If the foundation is not solid — has emotional cracks and wounds — these affect the structure of the adult lives. This is the time where the personality is shaped and the beliefs are born. It is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood; an important time where you search for identity and purpose of life. If the entry into adulthood is not done in the right manner, it may have consequences in life — small or big.It is now time to move on from my story to yours. In this 21st century with such a fast-paced environment, everything is in abundance. This is very different from what I experienced as a child. Now, we have better resources, infrastructure, opportunities, and awareness around us. Unfortunately, the distractions are in abundance too — social media, social life, social anxieties, social pressures, and social intrusions. Some distractions do not do major damage. Haven’t we also seen or heard of cases where some distractions were truly regretted for the rest of their lives? These distractions can cause permanent damage to our lives. Time is the scarcest resource in this century and it needs to be utilized well.If you are a young adult that is reading this blog, I want to tell you that you still have the opportunity to enter into adulthood the right way. As I said before, there is always time for everything. Sometimes you have to make it, but sometimes you just have to wait for it. Do you make it or wait for it? Going through the experience myself, I can tell you not to wait for it; just grab the opportunity into your own hands. In a world full of distractions, do remember, you cannot do big things if small things distract you.If you are a parent reading this blog, let me remind you that the child-parent relationship has the biggest impact on childhood. It has a life-long impact — whether the impact is positive or negative depends on your actions as a parent. Each of your actions counts literally. Our children are mirrors, reflecting images of what happens around them. Children have the power to see beyond what you want to show them. You have a responsibility to show them positive signs of life.If you are a sibling of a bossy teen girl, I humbly request you to bear with it. These are signs that the girl is getting stronger; let the flow continue. She is a leader-in-the-making. You will see the leadership in the years to come. (Bro, are you reading? Thanks for putting up with me. You exactly know what I mean!)To all the dear men around, it was a woman who brought you into this world. It’s your time to give back. Pamper your queen a bit more. In return, they will give you a lot more than you expect — to you and beyond. A big salute to all wonderful men out there. We love you.Finally, to all the teens around, this blog is an invitation to you to dream a lot more and live a lot more. Start early and start big. You are the next dream girl in the making. As I said before, the world needs a stronger you; do invest your time and energy for the right things. Do take a break with little distractions; I know they add colour to our lives! I have been there, done that!Thanks to a wonderful woman for inspiring me to pen down my thoughts on this topic. You are my source of energy and inspiration as a child amidst all the craziness that I experienced. You meant the world to me then; now and forever!