If you haven’t read The Awakening by Kate Chopin, you should. But you probably won’t so let me give you a quick synopsis. A Woman, living in turn of the century New Orleans finds herself stuck with two children she cannot stand and a husband who pretty much ignores her. She hates her life because it wasn’t one that she chose. One summer while her husband and children are away she takes up a lover. Her lover leaves her, as most men do, and she is unable to return to society – so she drowns herself.
I read the book for some class in high school. No one understood it. They thought the main character was a soulless she devil who should have shut up and been grateful that she wasn’t a seamstress. Even at 15, I got it. I never wanted to be that woman. I vowed never to lock myself into a life that someone else had chosen because it was the “appropriate” option. Now, at 25 I’m realizing that I have spent all of my adolescence and early adulthood doing exactly what I wanted to stand up against.
I feel an immense amount of pressure to be in a romantic relationship that’s going somewhere and to have a career that’s on the fast track to take me places. But I don’t know where I’m supposed to go or, where that somewhere is. I never took the time to learn myself or what I really wanted from life. So here I am, working in customer service, online dating, and continuously floundering through life.
I’m terrified to pursue writing, or music, or anything that makes me really happy simply because I do not know how. I have spent my entire life following directions and therefore never learned how to take the lead. I’m lost.
I made it to New York – I did that. I live under a train and beside a Popeye’s in a less than desirable part of Brooklyn, but I made it. I view the wealth and glamour of the city from my fire escape but I am not a part of it. I’m still the same shy little girl who never got asked to play kickball. I’m just watching from a far, fantasizing that I’m part of the game. I know, it’s disgusting that I’m sitting here wallowing in my own self pity – woe is me and so it goes. But I’m trying to understand what’s behind it. Why didn’t I just ask to play with the other kids? Why don’t I just try? Why is my fear of failure and rejection so crippling that I have spent years attempting to settle into a life that wasn’t meant for me? We could blame it on me, being a millennial, an upper middle white class girl born and bred in suburbia – I never had to try so I simply don’t know how. That however, is just a piece of it. The simple fact is, I never knew being my own person was an option – so I just chose to ignore the urge. I pushed it down and stomped on it until it was nothing but a squashed little dream.
“You’re not traditional, Liz..” I can still hear him say it. He stood behind me, zipping up my bridesmaid dress, gently wiping the sweat away from my neck. “You can find someone else, you can get married, you can have all of this…but I just don’t think it’s for you.” Hot little tears welled up in my eyes and I stared at the ground and then back at him. “I get to have this…I get to be like everyone else.” It came spilling out of my mouth so fast, that I didn’t comprehend my own words. On the outside, I had been a perfect daughter, friend, and suburbanite. I deserved to have what all of the rest of them had – a shiny rock on my ring finger and a man who would take care of me and impress my family. Someone so smart, tall, and perfect he could distract everyone from all of my flaws. A man to make me a lady – a partner to ease my family’s fears.
I am coming to terms with the fact that I may never have that – because it is never what I really wanted. I will never be successful at working 9-5 pushing papers, processing orders, or planning holiday parties because it is boring and I actually hate it. This is my awakening. I am opening my eyes and greeting a new way of living – one that I alone have chosen. I am accepting that the life I want for myself is untraditional and that my path is unpaved. I am taking in and coming to terms with my own expectations of myself – I am getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and using my fear to move me forward rather than shying away from it. I will be a writer with a voice that offers support and ignites change – I will love late in life and know that when I do it will be on my terms. I want something different and that is okay – I am okay. I am coming late to the party but I have never been one to be on time.