March 24, 2011

On Becoming a Professional Woman

Picture a Friday night in late summer. The air is thick and hot, and those August crickets are crooning their evening tunes. In an effort to stay cool, my fourteen year-old self can be found camped out on the hardwood floor of my family's two hundred year-old Maine farmhouse, watching television and enjoying a quickly melting bowl of cookie dough ice cream (as if there was any other flavor).
There's not much on, so I put in a video (yes, as in VIDEO CASSETTE) rented from my local video store (what is that, you ask?). The movie in question happens to be My Best Friend's Wedding. A Julia Roberts event. 

Over the next two hours, my eyes would be opened to a multitude of concepts I had rarely considered: the notion of being a successful, independent professional woman, the clothes you get to wear when you are said woman (note: while Julia's fashion in that film might be called into question in current times, the idea of wearing a suit of any kind intrigued me), what my wedding would look like, what my husband would look like -- aspects of being a woman.
Prior to seeing this movie, I had never really considered any of these things, focusing more on more adolescent pursuits.  But for whatever reason, this movie opened a floodgate of ideas about being a woman in the modern age. The image of Julia's character in that movie became a symbol, a beacon of sorts, that I sort of moved toward ever since that first viewing. 

A few months later, I saw the movie Stepmom. Another Julia extravaganza, this time a sad one. But again, I saw Julia play a successful professional woman who had done quite well for herself (loft in the city, Land Rover, nice clothes). Now I must admit that much of what had appealed to me in these movies are the material objects. Together they visualized a lifestyle that my teenage self thought she might like to have.
As I approach my late 20s, I feel in many ways I have become a version of that professional woman. But perhaps something better than Julia's food critic and photographer characters because I became me. Success and a comfortable life are still important to me, but I think the overt display of material wealth that once seemed attractive no longer appeals. I want to do well in my life but also live one that is modest and good.
I do see my beautiful new apartment and my new job in my new city, and cannot help but feel a sense of pride and accomplishment of those adolescent longings. 

I achieved much of my independence and success on my own, but really, what I have learned is that this life of mine would not have been possible without the incredible people supporting me - chiefly, my parents. They are incredibly kind, loving, fair people. And my friends - all bringing something unique to my life and giving me incredible support and laughter.
All of this is to say that being a professional woman is about your independence but it is also about learning to acknowledge your vulnerabilities and accept help from those who love you. The riches that come from those connections can yield a wondrous existence for any woman.

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