I know. It’s been nearly a year.
I don’t know where to begin to update you all, but I won’t go through the exhaustive barrage of updates. Those who know me already know what I’m going through, and those who know me a little less get snapshots on Facebook. But all I know is that I couldn’t bring myself to do work until I wrote this today, and broke the period of nearly one year that I have stopped writing.
But rather than go in chronological order, it’s try reverse chronological order.
That’s right, let’s go into the future. Way into the future. Let’s go to my funeral. (It’s morbid, but bear with me for a little bit.)
If I were to die, today, what would be said about me? I won’t belabor you all with an actual obituary of me (in case it appears on the Internet independently of this post, and people start to believe I’m actually dead), but up until this point, I will be where a lot of my peers are, right now: working an entry-level job, maybe at a company they like, maybe at one they hate, living with a roommate to decrease living costs, and most likely paying off a loan or several. We’re not comfortable, right now, and it’s really tempting to feel the need to work, really really hard, until that situation changes… until we have enough money to live independently, without a roommate or family, or until we can prove to our families that our birth was valid. I want to prove to immigrant family members that immigrating to America, doing all the legal paperwork and busting their ass to be a part of this country was worth it.
It’s tempting to ask ourselves “Is my family proud of me?” “What have I done to make sure this was worth it for them?” Maybe that’s a cultural thing I have, being a member of a collectivist culture that expects you to honor your family and your country, and maybe I ask myself that more often than traditionally American young adults do. But I find it more and more important to balance that question with “Am I proud of me?” “What have I done to make it worth it for me?”
Maybe that’s a little selfish, but I have to explain a little more: as someone involved in several male-dominated fields, being there is more like a crusade than it is in other fields. You wave your banner frantically to show you have made it this far, that your geekdom is valid geekdom; that your 300 APFT score is all you, baby, and your ability to jump out of planes is your achievement. You’ve let the slashes at your ego remain merely slashes, despite whatever real damage they might have done, and hell, being there alone makes you pretty much a badass.
But that banner-waving, smile-beaming, teeth-gritting is exhausting. The need to keep up appearances takes a toll, over time. Consider the consistent need to keep a balance between charming and assertive. Being successful requires a sense of confidence that a lot of women have to force in the entry level stages. We have to be so convicted in our goals, so headlong in our dreams that when the time comes to make personal decisions that have nothing to do with business, we feel a little lost. As a woman in a male-dominated field, it feels like a failure to do anything that tweaks my career direction in the slightest. Thoughts like, “But your mission! But work!” fly through my head, as if being in love and working are a choice to make, rather than things to aspire to simultaneously.
In my opinion, there are some pretty messed up forces at work, when a woman, in her earliest career stages is terrified that a tiny flaw in her resume will ruin her career for the rest of her life. We work so hard to be perfect, to be a better candidate than everyone else, but deep down, it’s because we have a fear, to such a point that it becomes a deep assumption, that we will be looked over, again and again, if we are not exceptional women.
And yet, life still happens, we take jobs that don’t necessarily align to our dreams, because that’s what’s there. That’s what’s available. Because working gives us more value than not working. (And there is nothing wrong with that.)
And perhaps it is in both genders that better opportunities are more and more scarce with the economy as it is. In 2014, 16.6% of people under the age of 25 are unemployed. More people in our generation are unemployed than our older counterparts. Considering these statistics, and the undeniable lack of female leadership, the chips are not in my favor to be comfortable, and to reach my eventual goal for a very, very long time. They’re not in anyone’s really.
So, the point of all this is a question, or a few: Tell me, why, in our efforts to be superwomen–to becomes CEOs, presidents, and owners–do we criticize the decision to raise children and take a moment to live in loving homes? More importantly, why does all of the judgment seem to be reserved for women who desire both a career and a life filled with love? We cannibalize any chance we have at making any impact because we create unhappy women in power, and unhappy women at home. And you know what, maybe rather than only teaching women to be more like men, we need to teach men and women alike to compromise, to grow with each other, and not to live in fear or anger.
So with this obituary, if I were to die tomorrow, I would love where I’ve come in my career, but would I be able to live with myself knowing I am intentionally sacrificing time I would be with those I love? Because honestly, when you realize that your life is finite, that you only have so much time on this earth, you start to reprioritize, you start to reconsider your lengthy, life-long crusade of awesome. Not because you don’t want to do it, but because you want to make room for the people you care about most, and hopefully find a little happiness to sneak in. Maybe we shouldn’t put up with a job that keeps us from the life we want. And that life we want doesn’t have to be work, alone. That life can be whatever you want it to be. It’s your dream, girl.
Being a career-oriented woman is not easy. But it’s a lot less lonely when you have someone with whom you can share your experiences. I think it’s time we stop bashing young marriages, and young mothers, and start trying to support everyone a little more. I know I’m prepared to die for this country because I know we have it in us to let everyone pursue their dreams. That’s what we built this country to do.
Now let’s stop pretending we’re living, and actually live. Go after the job you want. Live with who you want to live with. You’re an adult and can make these decisions on your own. You don’t need us. But face your happiness, grab it, and run with it. Because, let’s face it, our time will come. So let’s go ahead and make it a hell of a show.