My generation was born into a world with very high expectations on our little shoulders. We were the first generation of girls that wouldn’t have to fight for our basic rights. We had access to education, sports, and careers. It was socially acceptable to study hard, excel in sports, or pursue a high powered career. Women could wait to have children, choose to not have them at all, or even choose to have them with the help of science rather than a partner. We were the first generation in the US that was to be freed from the traditional female stereotypes.
We saw Sandra Day O’Conner on the Supreme Court, Sally Ride went into space, and Janet Reno became the Attorney General. We had artists like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper inspiring us to be fearlessly creative. Mary Lou and Nadia had us jumping off the furniture and tumbling down the hallways. Swimsuit models, 80’s glamour girls, and supermodels showed us we could be adored for our beauty. Women climbed the corporate ranks and served in our armed forces. There were role models everywhere.
The supermom became the norm in our favorite sitcoms and the “issues” that caused excitement on most of the shows seemed pretty manageable. Their homes were immaculate, the meals were on time, and the parents always seemed to end up reading in bed (in full makeup and hair) at the end of their day. They had time to connect with their spouses, had social lives, and always knew their kids friends. Some had nannies and maids, others had stay at home dads who covered the kids while mom pursued her career. They were empowered women who had confidence and were respected. It didn’t look that hard when I was ten.
We believed we could only be satisfied with our lives if we did it all, and in a hurry, because life was short. So somewhere along the way, the “or” in our dreams turned into “and.” We were encouraged that we could do anything, but soon we felt the mounting pressure to be everything. Career, children, higher education, marriage, faith, volunteering, all while maintaining the appearance that it was everything we thought it would be. Praise was heaped on the women who did it all. Thousands of articles were written on making the most of every minute and we became fiendish multitaskers. We listened to self help books while commuting, helped the kids with homework while ordering take out, organized the next PTO meeting while at our kids sporting events. We embraced the smart phones and mobile apps that could make us more productive on the go.
But real life is different than sitcoms and we eventually became so task focused that our dream of a fulfilling life got lost. Some of us realized that our marriages were broken, our careers were no longer inspiring us, we barely met our kids’ basic needs, and we didn’t even like ourselves anymore. That passionate 6 year old with Olympic dreams had been buried under decades of checklists and obligations.
It’s time that we accept that the “pressures of the world” may actually coming from within. That drive to always do more and be more may come from the fear of not being good enough. Having it all may be possible, but that doesn’t mean it’s fulfilling. We have to step back and assess what we are giving our energy to. Leading a life that honors who you are means passing on things you are capable of doing. Learning to let go without guilt may define us more than any other skill we have. It goes against everything that has been pumped into us for the last 30 years, but it’s time to take back the excitement of doing things that fulfill us, not just build our resume’.
The 1989 movie Dead Poets Society inspired many to “seize the day” but if we really understood the movie, we would be seizing the things in the day that we are passionate about. It seems like a huge task, but think back to your life before you felt overwhelmed and ask yourself a few questions:
What did you dream about?
What made you feel safe?
Are you doing those things now?
What can you get rid of that will make room for those joys?
Jot down your initial answers and add to your notes this week. Be intentional about spending time thinking about these questions. Also, please take a moment to subscribe to this blog so that you will receive email notification of the next post in this series.
Copyright 2014 AngelaJHerrington