As a grown up I got better at finding my own voice. I found it with my husband, I found it with my kids, I found it professionally and I found it academically. It didn't happen intentionally or even willingly. It just happened. In every phase of my life I realized to be the best me I could be, I had to be me. The honest to goodness best version of me.
In the beginning it is about mimicking. See a behavior and respond through imitation. That works for awhile and then like a too tight pair of jeans I realized I gotta find me in that imitation. And I did. I remember sitting in my second literature class for my bachelors degree and talking about the book Jane Eyre (my fav for anyone that knows me).
We were talking about the feminist tones in the novel. I remember feeling so empowered by it. I remember thinking in my head "Yes, this!" And then a guy raised his hand and said, "Gosh, that is feminism? She chose to marry the guy she loved. She was a governess to the guy she loved." I knew in that moment that the book really was lost on him.
But what I also realized and quickly said, "Feminism is a choice." It meant she chose to be happy. She didn't settle. She didn't say okay. But she did it the best way she could in the moment. It was the Victorian period so feminism isn't going to look like it does now. That is applying todays ideas to yesterdays standards.
And then when I decided to stay at home with my kids back in 2001 and I quit my successful job that I was very happy at I took quite a bit of criticism. I got a lot of jabs of going back to this old idea of a woman and a wife. So I did what those people thought I should. I tried to be that version of what they expected from me.
But then one day I sat around and thought, "No, I chose this. I get to decide what my version of being a staying at home looks like." And it was very different than societies version. It was a great financial hardship, but it also has paid us back in dividends when it comes to parenting in ways I cannot even describe.
And then there is this whole idea of marriage. A steady balance of today's norms and a happy marriage. It is easy to see and think what marriage is by what you see on TV. Sometimes the picture is broken and not permanent. Sometimes it is a fairytale. I claim neither. I claim marriage is about being with my best friend 24-7. That doesn't mean I like him 24-7. That does mean I always love him.
But I chose that. No one else did. I had a free thinking independent will that decided marriage is forever for me. It isn't about fairytale. It is about hard work put into someone who knows me better than anyone else. It is choosing to create life with this person and enjoying the many waves of happiness and sadness that come with that. That is a choice. It was never a right now, but instead a forever.
That also means for me that I don't inflict what I believe to be true on anyone else. Sure I have ideas of this life I chose being the best life. But it is the best life for me. And I have tried to always look at life through that lens. It isn't easy because I don't agree always with the things other people say and do, but I choose. The biggest mistakes I have ever made are when I try and say you must do this my way. It ain't right, and I know it.
That concept is easy to say but incredibly hard to carry out. But it is choice I make every day. I try and understand that I am can be a feminist and choose to be in a happy and successful marriage and raise my kids the way I see fit. I can be a wife, mom and respected woman because I chose to educate myself and professionally make choices that are a reflection of that choice.
The more I realized it was less about being other people and trying to make others happy the more I realized I can do amazing things. So I guess what I am saying is one day I grew up.