Letters to Women

Learned Lessons from One Woman to Another

Liberate

A few years ago I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that it was okay to go out and do things by myself. Now, this may not seem like an epiphany. In fact, it’s one of those things that we all know to be true, but when push comes shove, do we really believe it in our core? I didn’t, until after college. My college boyfriend and I had broken up two weeks before graduation, my friends were heading back to their respective hometowns and I was left alone. At first, I stayed home most nights and weekends. I didn’t want to go places alone. It was a scary prospect. Then something miraculous happened. The realization came that if I did not go out and do the things that I wanted to do, I never would. Again, sounds like common sense right? But think about it. Take a moment and think about all the times you’ve stayed home or decided to do something less fun because no one was available to join you. All that time adds up. That time equals the life that you wanted for yourself. So spend it doing what you want. I made a promise to myself at that time to never let my own fear keep me from doing something I truly desired.

In the time since that decision I have gone on vacation, tried new restaurants and bars, visited local festivals, seen movies and more, alone. And I’ve had a great time doing it. I know I’ve previously written about the importance of living on your own, especially as a woman, but the ability to go out on your own is equally vital to becoming an individual. You no longer need to abide by anyone’s schedule but your own. It’s liberating! Want to see a live comedy show? Go! No one’s free to check out that band playing Saturday? Their loss. Your gain. There’s a commercial currently using the slogan “life opens up when you do” and it’s absolutely true. Don’t close yourself off in your apartment/room/house. Open yourself to experiences that interest you.

I’m aware that this can be an intimidating proposition for many of you, so let me give you some suggestions on how to start out small and build your way up to full-fledged solo experiences like traveling. For starters, the best way to ease into it is to check out a local coffee shop. It’s great. You can get your regular cup of coffee, bring a book and just sit and read while enjoying your caffeine fix. This is great if you’re wary of interacting with strangers. The book keeps you engaged while you’re out partaking in the world around you. For more of a time commitment, you can choose a seat at the bar at any restaurant. Again, you could bring a book, or if you’re feeling up to it, you can engage the bartender or fellow patrons. It’s all at your comfort level. I know it can be scary at first, but like anything, it gets easier. I promise.

Once you’ve decided that you don’t need anyone to go with you places, you’re free. No barriers stand between you and experiencing all that life has to offer. So go on that brewery tour, check out that festival, or get a cup of coffee at that café you’ve been eyeing. It’s a brave new world and so are you…so what are you waiting for?

Naysayer

No one ever tells you just how difficult life will be.  At least, no one ever told me.  And even if they had, would I have believed them?  Probably not.  Sure, TV shows and movies give you an idea that life is not all sunshine and gumdrops, but the one thing you’re never quite prepared for are the naysayers.  You know who I mean.  The people who say you can’t do it, that you won’t succeed, that you aren’t cut out for it; whatever ‘it’ is.  And so, as an adult, you encounter these ‘negative Nancy’s’ one at a time, but sometimes, you let them win, because it’s easy.  You give up, give in, or convince yourself that whatever it was isn’t what you want anymore.  Most of the time however, you’re strong enough to just tune them out.  But sometimes, that voice is a bit closer to home. That’s when it’s the worst; when the voice telling you that you can’t make it, is your own.  Whether it related to your career, an athletic endeavor or relationship; we’ve all been there.  We’ve all won some of those battles and lost some. 

There were people who told me that I was entering a male dominated field of study but I didn’t let that deter me.  Every time someone told me I couldn’t do something, it made me work that much harder to prove them wrong.  As easy as it was, and is, for me to rally my energy against an external force; it’s that much harder to do the same when I am the one telling myself I can’t/I shouldn’t/I’ll fail.  I quit a lot of activities back when I was in High School.  It wasn’t until I graduated from college and started to listening to myself that I began to follow things through to the conclusion that I had envisioned at the start. 

The ability to listen to yourself and trust your judgment is one of the greatest lessons you can ever learn.  I’m not saying it’s easy and I’m certainly not claiming to have mastered it.  What I am claiming however, is that you will feel stronger than you ever have, if you don’t give in to yourself.  That little inside voice filling your head with negativity will only grow if you don’t stamp it out.  Don’t be your own obstacle; there are enough of those in life already.  Stay positive.  Remember the passion and energy that got you started in the first place.  Don’t lose sight of that.  It’s your greatest weapon against your greatest enemy; yourself.   Replace “I can’t” with “I WILL”, because it’s true.  Believe in the power you already possess and you will succeed.  I promise.

Definition

I do not subscribe to society’s view of femininity.  I simply do not buy into it, and neither should you.  Let me explain.  There is such a broad spectrum of what it means to be feminine that it is foolish to believe in one ideal.  Whether you believe a woman should be delicate and demure or a tough as nails, take no crap champion; both are valid forms of what it means to be a woman.  We certainly shouldn’t judge other women based on where they fall in this spectrum; otherwise we become our own worst enemy. 

For example – my favorite color bounces between green and orange.  I love action movies and beer.  I learned how to drive a stick shift because I want to own a ’67 Stingray some day.  Do these traits mean that I am less feminine than my girlfriends who love to shop, get weekly pedicures and relish rom-com movie marathons?  I think not.

There are all kinds of feminine.  Dainty or Daring.  Neither one is more “feminine” than the other.   And there’s no reason you can’t be both.  The reality of the 21st Century is that most people fall in the middle.  This also holds true for men, who have to deal with the same issues in regards to the definition of masculinity.

So don’t ever feel like you need to fit someone’s mold of what it means to be a woman.  Create your own style of femininity.  Just realize that your view may be VERY different from that of the woman sitting next to you.  It’s not a matter of which way is right or wrong, or better or worse.  You BOTH simply are, women.  Equally strong, equally confident, equally feminine.

Know Thyself

I like being alone. There, I said it. I enjoy my complete independence. There’s nothing that quite compares to the knowledge that if need be, I could pack my bags and leave town with a moments notice. Now, this is not to say that I am not opposed to relationships. On the contrary; I believe that a good relationship can provide great fulfillment and comfort in a person’s life. What I do believe in, wholeheartedly, is that if you are unable to be alone, then the kind of relationship I am referring to will be rather elusive.

There is one person you will be with your entire life. You just can’t shake ’em. Know who that person is? It’s YOU, so make sure you are comfortable with yourself before you get comfortable with someone else. You’d be surprised how much of what you thought you wanted in a partner changes when you know who you are. And I mean, really know who you are. Live on your own, or at least with a roommate. There are things that you learn when fending for yourself that no one can teach you. Go places by yourself. Yep, you heard me, all by yourself. Don’t worry, I’ll have a post solely devoted to that topic. Experiment with your taste. What’s your style? What do you like to do? What do you absolutely abhor? If you are in your late teens or just graduating college this is vital. I know it’s hard to grasp this, but you are so young it’s ridiculous. And that’s a good thing. Make mistakes, have fun, focus on yourself and becoming the woman you want to be. The rest will follow in time. I’m still learning about myself, and can honestly say that I never could have predicted how much I’ve changed in the last five years. And they have proven to be the most rewarding years I’ve experienced so far. So please, don’t spend your time worrying about being alone. You just might find that your company is the best there is.

Momma

My maternal grandmother died of complications due to breast cancer when my mother was 26.  I think about that a lot.  I’m 28 now, I’ll be 29 in little over a month and I can’t imagine life without my mother.  The woman who kissed my bruises as a child, read to me, helped me with my schoolwork, fostered my imagination and helped me discover who I am as a woman, never had the chance to spend time with her mother when she was 28.  This was more than thirty years ago , so while breast cancer was common, the media and societal support for the cure was nowhere near the juggernaut it is today.  My grandmother was sick for quite a while, as I understand it.  I never had the chance to know her.  I like to think she was a little bit of my mother and her siblings all rolled into one.

I am telling you this for two reasons of which I am sure you were aware prior to this reading, but nevertheless, I will share.  Please check your breasts regularly.  We’ve all known someone who has been affected directly or indirectly by cancer.  With all cancers, early detection is key.  So set your phone to give you a reminder each month, mark it on your calendar or use one of the handy-dandy apps that are available for just such things.  It could save your life.  It’s odd to think that a part of our bodies used to nourish new life is capable of taking our lives.  So please, do a self breast check every month.  Your family and friends will thank you.

The second reason I am sharing is that Mother’s Day is right around the corner.  Be good to your mothers.  I can’t imagine life without mine.  Even though I may get frustrated with my mother from time to time (especially when she needs help navigating the internet), she is my safety net.  I know that when I need her, she will be there.  Her voice calms me; her hugs soothe me.  On this Mother’s Day and every day, give thanks for your mother.  And if, like me, you are lucky enough to see your mother, be grateful and give her a soothing hug in return.

 

Helpful Links:

How to do a self breast exam

If distance is an issue this Mother’s Day you can always send an eCard!

Or if you both have Google+ or Skype, you can video chat!

Body Movin’

I will forever be baffled and completely perplexed by the notion of “female perfection”. Every woman is perfect! Every body shape, hair color, eye color, facial features…it’s all perfect! Which brings me to my latest irritation with print publications specifically. This whole ‘thigh gap’ thing boggles my mind. The reality for most women is that their thighs touch. And it’s NORMAL! Hear me girls? It’s NORMAL. There is nothing healthy or attractive about altering your appearance to attain a version of beauty manufactured by someone else. In this case, the print industry is the biggest culprit in perpetuating this latest body modification. As previously mentioned, women come in all shapes and sizes. No matter where you fall on the physical spectrum, whether you are a size 2 or 22, you are beautiful. The most important thing when it comes to your body is that you are making sure that it is healthy.

Why desire to look like someone in a magazine? Been done. I’m bored. I want to see you for who YOU are. What shape you were meant to be is far more appealing than contorting and depriving and striving to push your body in directions it doesn’t naturally want to go. To be completely honest, I don’t even know that I could tell you the shape of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Why? Because I was captivated by their confidence, the way they carried themselves, their radiant personality; not their shape. I certainly wasn’t paying the slightest attention as to whether or not their upper thighs touched. And I know for a fact that any male worth his salt shares my view. So let’s banish this whole idea that there is one physical ‘ideal’. There simply is not. Embrace your body’s quirks, let it all hang out. Just don’t forget the most important part of the entire package…attitude. That body is yours dammit! It was designed just for you. It’s the only one you’ll ever have and it is fabulous!

Be Unstoppable

As someone who has several friends that work on college campuses I am deeply troubled by the state of young women today.  These women are under assault, not only by their peer groups and the media; but from themselves.  As such, there are certain things that I want them to know.  There is a seemingly endless list of things that I’d like to discuss in regards to young women today but as graduation season is upon us let’s consider this my (short) letter of recommendations to the female class of 2014.

I implore each of you to banish the following thoughts from your mind once and for all:

  1. “I’ll feel better about myself once I lose that weight, tone up my arms, get contacts, etc.”
  2. “I’ll be happy when I have a significant other.”
  3. “Can you believe her/that dress/those shoes?! I just don’t get it.”

1 &2:  Do not place limitations on your own happiness.  Confidence comes when you acknowledge who you are today and realize that tomorrow is full of endless possibilities.  Do not place your contentment in the hands of another.  That is not their responsibility and as such will only lead to disappointment.  There is one person responsible for the life you lead and that person is you.  Make it the life you WANT to lead. 

3: As for the other girls? Judging others based on their appearance simply further perpetuates the downward slide of humanity.  How are we to praise each other’s accomplishments when we are too busy picking apart their perceived faults?  Instead, I challenge you to find something positive in every woman you encounter.  Their taste in fashion, music, life style may not be yours, but that does not make it any less valid.

In closing, I’d like each of you to do me a favor.  Every morning when you wake up, I’d like you to say the following to yourself in a mirror.  “I am unique.  I am beautiful.  I am unstoppable.”  And when you have the inevitable bad day do not lose heart.  Remind yourself that you are not your yesterday.  You are your own tomorrow.  So own it, because it is YOURS. Now go forth and be unstoppable!