Awakening

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.

 

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When It’s Time to Be a Big Girl

In the past few decades women have been on the move. We have advanced our position in this world and have successfully obtained more equal opportunities in the work place. Although there are still very few female leaders then there really should be, women have still managed to get their foot in the door. Unfortunately, this particular decade has brought with it great economic loss and it’s no longer as easy to become a successful American professional. In this year, 2012, Men and women alike have found themselves in a strange place. It’s not just difficult for women to find a job, now it’s also hard for men. Even highly educated men, and senior executives have the possibility for joblessness, it seems that no one is safe from this economic crisis.

As an educated middle-class, white woman I find myself in a funny position. I have nearly graduated and I am already carefully planning my future. All of my girl friends are planning their futures as well with out any expectation of starting a family or relying on a man for economic support. I feel a great push towards independent success, but it makes me wonder if it’s because women can no longer rely on a man for stability because there’s no stability to be had, or if women are truly becoming more equal. When times are hard, women make it work with out question. In the early 1940’s when millions of young American men went over seas, women picked up factory jobs to help support the war effort. Women stampeded into the work force not only because it was an expectation, but because they finally could. Could that be what’s happening now? Are we all just finding our own financial independence because we really want to, or is it because we think, “hey I have as much of a chance at finding a job, as he does”? Southern Belles who attend Ole Miss and major in MRS. must be facing their own serious crises right now.

Now, what if you’re a woman whose future doesn’t involve an executive position, or even a successful career? What if you’re the kind of woman who would gladly trade in her briefcase for a baby and a wedding ring, is there anything wrong with that? Absolutely not. Your future is your own, every woman should have a back up plan for her life. It’s never a good idea to play Rapunzel and wait around for a prince on a white horse to come save her, that’s just bad planning. No man wants to climb up your hair, I don’t care how strong and shiny it is. But, if your true goal in life is motherhood, or being a wife, well then go make yourself a family.

I used to battle with this a lot in my own mind. I love writing and I have many big dreams but I know that I will never truly feel fulfilled in this world if I don’t have children and an uplifting marriage. I used to think that it made me sound “weak” to buy into the whole idea that you, me, and baby makes three because I thought it was “un-feminist” or something. Then I realized that I was selling myself the very bullshit that I fight against everyday. Being a feminist and a strong woman means that you’re following your own voice and letting it take you, where you want to go. It’s about choice and feeling grounded in your life decisions and goals. If you were put on this earth to lead, then push your way through that glass ceiling and make it rain on the people beneath you. If you were born to being a mother then for God’s sake have babies and take pride in your ability to be a caregiver, and finally if your soul’s desire is to be in partnership with a man (or woman) then allow yourself to live your fullest life in love.

The most important part of planning for your future is asking yourself, “What will make me fulfilled?” If you don’t know, don’t panic, just keep asking. A female senator isn’t any better than a mother of four because she’s breaking ground, mothers break ground everyday. Every woman is unique and able to be wonderfully successful in her own rite. As women, we are human beings which guarantees that we are capable of making our own ways in life. Being pushed into politics, or medicine, is just as bad as being told you can’t be anything besides a homemaker, because it’s taking away our choice. Be firm, and grounded in your goals and allow yourself to invite them in with open arms.