I don’t know where it comes from.
Perhaps it’s all of the magazines that order us to compartmentalize our ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ into disparate categories, because we need to be boxed and separated up into finite groupings such as “Sensual” or “Romantic” or “Eclectic”. If you like the Eclectic dress option but prefer the Sensual fragrance, what does that make you? Apparently a freak of nature, according to Cosmo.
Why do we, as women, urge other women to single themselves into these options that have no fluidity or grey area? Is it possible to be more than one thing at once? Apparently not if you follow these dictums.
Why do I HAVE to be a Zooey Deschanel every single day when on certain Saturday nights I feel more like Jennifer Lopez? And then like a P!nk on another day, or a Michelle Williams, or a La Roux? (Right now, with my newly dyed red hair, I’m definitely a La Roux. Or a RuPaul.)
Gendered competition exists everywhere. We participate in it as women every single time we cringe at another womans’ choice in jeans size, or dissect the shape of a strangers’ nose/butt/breasts/legs.
Yes, I moved to NYC when I was 23. Yes, I was operating mostly on my parents’ dime. Yes, I was getting my rent paid for me. I pretty much was handed a card saying “You will never get an opportunity like this again so make the most of it.”
What did I do? I lived at the gym, in the library, and in my apartment. I didn’t come out for air until six months later when I moved home, tail between my legs, and with a giant hole in my heart where my adoration of musical theater and drama had been ripped out of me.
I did not, as the girls on Girls do, spend my days eating cupcakes, complaining about my parents’ paying for all of my stuff, sleeping with guys who never called me back (although I did date a few guys in NYC, I was so isolated, so protective of my newly-slender body, that they couldn’t get close enough). I spent my days by myself. Competing against myself. Slowly growing to despise myself.
And it just kept getting bigger.
It took a long, long time to be fully okay with everything I was, and everything I wasn’t.
Now, I’m in graduate school. I’m on the other side of 25. Day in and day out, I am surrounded by pressure to deliver perfection. A B+ is cause for depression. A bad evaluation on a student form can be the difference between acceptance and dismissal. It’s like I’m operating with a gun at the back of my head in the shape of a ballpoint pen.
At the beginning of the year, I was fully accepting of that pressure. Indeed, I strode into the first week of classes back in August with a “COME AT ME, BRO” attitude. I flew through those first two months without any worries. I knew I had a one-track mind, and was planning to spend the next two years and the rest of my days fully immersed in scholarship. My schedule was laid out, like a red carpet, welcoming me onto the path of least resistance.
Life has a way of reaching up at you when you think everything is going juuuust the way you think you want it to go, and punching you in the face.
This year has changed my life. I won’t get into the details, but if you know me in person, you know that things have happened that have changed me irrevocably. All good things. Nobody died or anything. But it has been a year of reflection and self-inspection so profound and intense that there have been moments I’ve started crying at phrases as simple as “Why did you leave the dishes unwashed?”
I always want to be the BEST at something. I’ve gotten so used to the competition of being ‘the BEST’, that I forgot to just be myself.
I’m probably reading way too much into this situtation. But I think that I’m passed that area of my life when the future was a gaping black hole, poised to swallow every single hope and dream I have and. The future looks pretty sparkling to me. So there are a few things I need to take care of in order to secure that promise. Stop beating myself into the ground, for one.
I have two more weeks of the semester. Two more weeks of lockdown paper writing and scholarship and grading. This summer, I plan to laugh, drink wine, eat so much mango I’ll turn into one, run because I love it and not because I’m training for anything, do all of the yoga classes I didn’t have time for this year, reeeeelaaaaaaaaax, and be.my.self.
My best self. Which is just my own self.
which would be the best gift i could offer anyone.