"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

man overboard

Now Playing: Work by Iggy Azalea (this dream is all that I need cause it's all that I ever had)

I think when you're a child, or even an undergrad, you always feel like you can jump ship.

I know I jumped ship a few times. I changed my mind a lot about what I wanted to do, what was important, what kind of person I wanted to be - I decided virtually overnight that I hated Anthropology and wanted to be a Gender Studies major, I decided that I wasn't going to pursue the relatively orthodox English route and instead go down the scary (and scarily underfunded) Gender and Sexuality route. I decided in my undergrad I was going to prioritize being young and happy over locking myself in a room with books all day, and I'm happy with my choices. I met some wonderful people and had some wonderful experiences and looked after my mental health and all that.

But moving here has been a big shift towards Scary Adult Things; I live in my own, I look after myself. And I was really confused and upset about all the choices I had apparently made, all the choices I had apparently let slip - some friends got married, some went into teaching, some left, like I did, some had babies, some gave up academia or any kind of intellectual life whatsoever. I felt like I had had a choice, at some point, but something invisible had forced my hand to make me make choices I didn't know if I was entirely happy with.

When you're a smart girl, people tell you to focus on your career. People have always been pushing me so hard in that direction that I feel like they forgot that I had a heart, that I had feelings, that I was just a normal girl who fell in love at the drop of a hat; that I was an adolescent running purely on hormones and a reckless need to do stupid things. I sometimes pulled away, did things that 'only stupid girls do' - party, drink, have sex, hang out with boys. I did them because I was young and rebellious, I did them to remind myself that there's more to life than grades and diplomas, I did them because they made me happy, and I did them because I was painfully aware that if I didn't develop myself as a person and as a woman and as a potential partner, in 20 years time when I have fancy degrees and no partner and no children people will turn around and say it was my fault, that I wasted my youth, and beneath all the misogyny there will be a grain of truth in that accusation that will be difficult to ignore.

It's difficult knowing that you can only trust yourself in a society that privileges romantic love, privileges committed relationships, and romanticizes domestic harmony and the nuclear family - and make no mistake, these are all things I want, although admittedly I think more critically about these patriarchal institutions than most girls my age. I always knew that I was a writer; but I always knew that I was a sexual being, and I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I always knew I craved company and love and companionship - not because I'm weak, or because I'm failing as a feminist or as a modern woman, but because no amount of intelligence or emancipation detracts from the fact that we're all social beings; we are a social species, and we don't deny men their desires for other people. But, time and time again, life has always reminded me that, at least for now, I can trust only myself. Relying on other people is too risky, at least for now. I have to make my own way. Because as hard as it is to move out, to pursue paths that are out of most peoples' reach (and possibly your own, who knows)...all of that challenge and risk has always been easier and safer than trusting any of the people who claimed I could trust them. Which is sad, and depressing, and disheartening when you're still just a young girl who was in love for the first time. But life moves on.

People love accusing women of being cynical, to lighten up a bit. And when we do make the oh so stupid mistake of actually taking people at their word, we're blamed for our un-cynical, unironic stupidity. You really can't win, you know? So you know what? I'm cynical. I'm jaded, and cynical, because I'm young and afraid but I have to somehow tough it out. And cynicism is all I know.

So I felt like maybe I wasn't on the right path; that maybe I should have jumped ship. I see my friends all sailing in different directions after twenty years of being confined together in the same city, the same schools, the cheap student restaurants, and I feel an odd mix of guilt and regret and jealousy; it's hard to accept that now we're all grown ups we'll always have things that others don't, and other people will always have things we'll never have. But now I realize that my plans for mutiny were all in my head, that there is nowhere to run, nobody waiting for me when I get home. I can't jump ship anymore, only try to navigate this one away from icebergs and try to catch a favourable wind. I can stay here, on this deck, or I can throw myself overboard. Which might sound depressing to you, but it gives me hope. I know for sure now that I am on the right track, that everything else was just a distraction. I know now that if I see this through, I'll be okay.

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