August 16, 2011

On Being A Modern Woman

Awkward iPhone photo to symbolize my attempt to be a modern woman...

Lately, I have been feeling like I am going through a change. Not THE CHANGE. (Although sometimes when my time of the month rolls around, I wish THE CHANGE would just happen already. TMI? Oh well :) By "change," I mean a change in identity, in personal goals, in the type of woman/person I want to be in this world. 
For years, I have strived to be a "power" woman. Think black suit, trendy bag, perfectly coiffed hair, and a big time job. That's where I always saw myself ending up. 

It started in high school where I changed into a total nerd and threw myself into my studies, achieving top marks and accolades. I knew that if I applied myself, I could be a successful, modern woman, the fruit of my foremothers' labor over the past century. I clung to this goal as the rationale behind all of my efforts in school.
My academic pattern continued into college, especially freshman year, where I kept my socializing to a minimum and focused on achieving straight A's, which I maintained until the final semester of college (darn you, War and Peace Studies). The ironic thing was that that last semester in college was probably the best semester of my life wherein I had the most fun and enjoyed life a little bit more.
Coming out of college, however, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted. I could not even think about going back to school. So I took a steady job in market research and enjoyed life for a few years. Then I decided that law school was my next step. I have a "soapbox" side to me, an argumentative side. I am passionate about various causes such a child advocacy and immigration, and I believed that meant I would be a good lawyer. And of course, my mom said, "I've always thought you would make a good lawyer." Anything to make my mom proud.  SO, I bought an LSAT book, studied as much as I could with a full-time job, took the LSATs, didn't do amazingly well, and then asked myself if I really wanted to follow this path. The answer was no. While I do have a high-powered aspect to my personality and admire many aspects of the law, I do not LOVE the idea of being a lawyer or the three ensuing years of law school.
So I switched gears to journalism. This was in 2009, when the economy was not so great and the media market was in turmoil, particularly print media. But I found a job working as an editorial assistant for an education policy magazine. In short, it was hell on earth. Six months later, I quit. I thought I might like to work for NPR, so I tried to network there and began recording podcasts (otherwise known as The Weekly Marginalian). I never heard back from any of the NPR positions I applied for - which was perhaps due to the paucity of my radio experience. I eventually became a freelance web editor for a foreign affairs journalist, but I was never able to get my own writing off the ground. Then,  I realized that I didn't want to report on the action. I wanted to be at the center of it. Around that time, I got a job in Washington DC, the center of the action (although lately I feel like I want to disassociate myself from the Washington action).
Now, six months in, I find myself wondering if working here is right for me in terms of the person I want to be. Here is a world of empirical black and white thinking, self-promotion, cutthroat competition, insurmountable bureaucracy. I thought I would love the power of the scene.  The woman here are hard, tough, and relentless (and they bury themselves in manly suits - seriously, I like a little frill and a little eclectic patten once in a while). And the thing of it is, I feel like one would have to be such a woman to work here. This place is strong. It can change you.
In thinking about my long-term goals, however, I have lately found myself with a penchant for a quieter, less high-strung lifestyle. I miss the country - being closer to a natural setting. I keep going back to that simple dream: husband, a kid or two (at least one adopted), dog, cat, old country house, huge vegetable garden, kayaks, and the ocean not too far away. 

As for my career itself, I want to see more results and impact of my work. I find myself again sitting at a desk, often with excess time on my hands, not really engaging with people. I want to connect with people more and have a more action-oriented position, but not necessarily high powered. I don't want to look back at my life and see that I have spent most of it sitting at a desk, reviewing other people's work and having no real impact.
Many of my female friends are on very high-powered, successful tracks. For years, I felt immense pressure to keep up. But then I realized, why? Do I want to even keep up? Am I doing this just for the sake of petty competition?

It hit me lately how all this pressure I have put on myself doesn't necessarily have to be there. It's my life. And life is short. I should live it how I want. Nothing else and no one else matters. That should be the bottom line. 

This realization was huge. Gone was the desire to be high-powered. Gone was the idea that I had to have this perfect career path at only the best places of employment. Thinking about all that makes me tired and to be honest, bored. What my life needs is a little spice, a little creativity.

I am a free spirit who has been trying to fit herself inside a tiny, sterile box for too long. 

Now, this doesn't mean I am moving out of Washington. It just means that being here is teaching me more about who I am and where I would like the road to take me. 

So in sum, I see a modern woman as a lady who makes the choices that are best for her, despite what family, friends, society, and feminist theory may dictate as the "right" path. It's our privilege and there are still many women in the world who still need that privilege, so it is not something to be taken for granted. 


  1. This is such a great post Em! Such a great perspective! You've clearly spent a lot of time thinking about this, and it's so interesting to see how your experiences thus far have led you down this life path. Can't wait to see where it takes you next. <3

  2. I can't wait to see where this path leads you! This is such a huge step to realize what you want out of life - the possibilities for you are endless! I'm excited for you! Hope you're having a great week! xoxo


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