Talking Back

"When something is important enough, you do it--even if the odds are not in your favor."
- Elon Musk

Even though a man (who I greatly respect) said these words, this is a message women around the world need to take to heart. Through the years I have watched women I admire and love let themselves get cast as an understudy instead of the lead actress of their lives.  There is an undercurrent in both the personal and professional realm pulling us back into the riptide. We are accepting the role of option over priority. I have to sit back this morning and ask why? And what can be done?

Sheryl Sandberg, the voice of the Lean In movement communicates a clear message about the precipice women have reached. She states that "it is now time to cheer on girls and women who WANT to sit at the table." But what about those who have no desire to be knighted into the ways of the round table? Have we left them behind? 

The problem I have been observing and will continue to explore is that women have one main obstacle, both in the home, office, grocery store, or whatever your current dwelling may be. We allow ourselves in our relationships with both genders to be options instead of priorities. We accept, too often, that patience is a virtue. Women are to be kind and sensitive creatures. We are compassionate and nurturing. We are understanding. I don't intend to argue with these truths, but let me share what we are not...

We are not doormats. We are not options. We are not weak.

Eleanor Roosevelt said that a woman "was like a teabag, you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water." But what about the day to day when we're swimming in a temperate climate? Are we only to show strength when the circumstances demand it of us?

The older I become I am constantly redefining my definition of womanhood. I love my gender identity. I relish in being both sexy and smart. I feel at peace in my God-given body. I enjoy being a nurturer and I strive to be compassionate. 

But I am not patient. I am not sensitive. And everyday I fight the internal battle of refusing to accept I come second.  I have watched too many women be taken advantage of with this mentality. I admit there was a time where I felt that I could cast my own goals aside and sign the contract to a lifetime of second place. Surprisingly enough, I am not referring to marriage. One can have these types of relationships with all sorts of dynamics. I have had several. Yet recent events have me thinking about the example I am setting for the next generation of women by allowing such behavior. 

What am I demonstrating by accepting negligence and dishonesty? 

It is too easy to cast strong women aside and make "bold" claims that they are bossy or crazy.
Or even worse--BOTH.

To my peers in this uphill battle for equality and respect, demanding the best of someone is not being bossy or crazy. It is being true to who you are. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I have held hands, given hugs, and stayed up late with many bruised hearts. I have read all the texts (woman on woman, man to woman) and I have even been amused to receive a few of them. When I demand priority status, do not mistake that as a request. You get one shot at life here; do not waste your time with those who do not have time for you. After all, Mr. Musk states above, that "when something is important enough--you do it." And you are important. You are the Oscar winner. You are the President of your life--not the First Lady.

If you think my gender (or the attributes you assume I encompass) make me weak, or less than worthy of being a priority, then you are the one who shall be cast aside. 

This is not a funeral of the American woman- rather it is a revolution. All we can ask of one another is that we live lives full of honesty and respect towards others. That is all we owe one another. We, as women, must continue to evolve and constantly update the definition of womanhood. We are constantly emerging, creating, innovating, and most importantly raising in the ranks.  We must abandon old idioms of submission and demand the BEST of one another. 

One day my son or daughter will look at my life. They will hear stories, read articles, and integrate their findings in their own behaviors and choices. I will tell them two things

1. Demand the best of your peers.
2. The truth will never fail you.

And if I have a daughter, "You are the President. Not the First Lady."



Across The Quad

I sit around humming "Boston" by Augustana as I fold a week's worth of laundry. Where did the years go to when I first heard this? I remember it well. Sitting in my dorm room in Bloomington, my friends and I would sway on bunk beds to the lyrics that seemed to know our secrets. We'd lay on the quad and talk about the world's problems...and how we had all answers. If only the world would look over its shoulder. "Call on me! I know I know!" We'd eagerly reach out, almost toppling out of our desks.

We had real problems. You're dating who now? You got cut from which sorority? Your roommate said what? Your parents cut you off? You lost your meal plan? 

My father and I would talk on the phone weekly. I'd call him after my English class and pat myself on the back with my straight A's. Only a freshman and I felt as if I ruled the school. When my Dad would call me out and tell me I hadn't yet met the real world, or even a slice of reality, I'd scoff and reply,

"Dad, I'm in college. My job is 24/7! I have real problems I have to deal with. 
Do you know what kind of stress I'm under?"

I think of that now and smile. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that everything is relative. We cannot be who we are today without who we were a few years ago. For example, freshman year of college taught me I'm not edgy.  Despite my love for alternative rock, fake piercings, and black everything--I realized I feel much more like myself in a high waisted skirt and a cardigan. I also learned permanent marker is not suitable nail polish. And fake nails make typing twenty page essays incredibly hard.

Without experimentation we have no way of knowing what we like or who we are. Each phase of my life has led me to the one I'm in now. The one I call, Mt. Twentysomething. No longer a college grad, yet not quite old enough to accept that I'm an alum. Mt. Twentysomething is named as such because while in your twenties you constantly feel like you're scaling a mountain, with the sweet promise that once you reach the top, (turning thirty) you will be able to see things much more clearly and with newfound wisdom. Fingers crossed.

My freshman year of college the movie, Across The Universe came out. The student center had a movie night for all the frosh and after the film ended, you could hear "Hey Jude" being sung throughout campus. That night at every frat party, off campus bar, or on the roof of the library (no comment), you heard Jude being told what's up. I loved it. With linked arms, my friends and I paraded around campus, PBR in hand, and sang for all of central Illinois to hear. We stumbled across the grass beneath a moonlit sky, dreaming of when we'd meet our Jude. Or if there would ever be a band as great as the Beatles. Again, just being real problem solvers.

Both of those questions remain outstanding, but the memory never ceases to bring a smile to my face. Tomorrow's problems  may not be as easy as the ones back then, but where there is music and good friends... I have faith that with linked arms we'll manage through. 

Keep the faith and find the freshman in you.