Saturday, 3 April 2010

So this is my life

Time. I need more of it. I am time thirsty. I may only be 24, but I am already conscious of the hour glass sands slipping away, sliding me towards obscurity.

I know what I want: a successful full life, with a stella career, adoring and adorable husband, 4 children and an incredible kitchen. I mean who doesn't want a KitchenAid?

The problem is, knowing exactly what I mean by success. We children of the 70s, 80s and 90s were raised by mothers who had the options of university, a career, financial independence, divorce. They didn't necessarily know how to cook or darn a sock. The world had opened up to them like a never ending series of choices. They had raised us to believe that our birth right was the choice to be whatever we wanted. They suffered, no question, when the gloss of pain-free choice came off their lives. When they were abandoned with the kids so a career became a necessity. When they were made to feel like getting crows' feet was a sin whose than adultery. When their kids learned to starve themselves.

They fed us a diet of self belief whilst having none of their own. They taught us that we could outdo the boys, we could join the army, we could make the world we wanted and no-one could stop us. All at the same time as putting themselves through endless weightloss programmes and rounds of botox. They hated themselves while telling us to lavish nothing but undying love on ourselves.

I am a product of that strange message. I am a high flyer, a pushy ambitious young woman. My mother is not satisfied with anything but perfection. And I am her child. It hasn't made me happy, I know, but I also feel incredibly driven to do better than people expect of me.

I have this chance. By some happy accident I was born in 1985, not 1762 or 1135 BC. I was born into a time and place where being a woman doesn't mean you are tied into a role which society has built for you, complete with iron bars and fetters. I have this fantastic opportunity which so many women never had. I am determined not to waste it. They wouldn't want me to do anything less.

And it's not just women. Anyone but a tiny minority of people holding the power at any one stage of human hisory was forced into one mould or another. You, young man, will be a blacksmith like your father. You, young lady, must marry a miner. There's nothing else for you. Except perhaps a convent.

Sometimes when I am afraid, when I am in some difficult situation and feel like a little girl again, I think of them. The dead women. Billions and billions of them who never became all they could have been. I feel their breath on my neck. I feel their unfulfilled ambitions. I sense their potential. And I run into the fire which scares me. So far, it may have burned me, it may have made life hard sometimes, but I don't for one moment regret it.

I want to lead a life where I define my own success. That is the heart of existentialism and there's an awful lot of truth in that. Singing to the songbook of another only makes you their creation.

I am determined to become the very best I can be. In my career, as a friend, (one day I hope) wife, daughter. Here's to making the most of the time we have.

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