The last 50 years have seen a huge transition in the role of women in our society. Bear in mind that I'm 38 years old so I could be considered a generation ahead of a lot of my new mom peers and I was raised by parents of approximately 3 generations ago. Parents that were among the first to ensure that the wife had a career and identity outside of the home. Parents that had to fight for this to be considered normal and acceptable.
As the daughter of feminists, I was raised with a lot of messages that were relatively new to girls. That I had immense potential. That I could be a high powered anything I wanted to be. This is a wonderful message for all people to grow up with. On the other hand, to some extent I became a victim of my own potential.
I've been blessed with raw intelligence and a great strategic mind. Had I chose to pursue a career in law, I would have made an excellent lawyer. I was also blessed with parents who had both the means and inclination to fund whatever avenue of education I chose. To this day my parents are willing to fund any education I might choose to pursue. Basically, I was born with advantages that would allow me to excel in anything I chose to fight to excel at.
As I floundered through early adulthood, I had trouble finding that thing that I wanted to pursue. I couldn't figure out which potential greatness I wanted to achieve. Every greatness seemed to require the sacrifice of things I truly wanted. It's been a constant struggle for me and I'm sure there will be more moments in my future where I continue to struggle with this. I almost feel like because of the potential to be great, I have a responsibility to be great.
I actually figured out early on what I really wanted, but always got the message that I should want something more. What I've figured out is that I don't want greatness, I want happiness. Those are two very different things. Yes, I have the potential for greatness, no, I haven't achieved it because greatness holds no appeal to me. Ok, it holds some appeal, but not enough to be worth going after.
Growing up with bipolar disorder, my brain did it's best to tease me with great thoughts and ideas, but to keep them just out grasp. When I was manic, I had so many thoughts rushing through my head that I was frantic to catch hold of some of them. It's like watching a train of celebrities rush by and you just want it to slow down enough so you can see the faces of all those awesome people through the window. You know they're there, you know they are right in front of you, but you can't actually see them. Greatness, right there, but untouchable. Then during my depressions, those same great thoughts are there, but buried in a deep fog. Mud that I'm unable to trudge through to reach what I know is there.
Because of this, all I ever wanted in life was contentment. Something so simple that so many people take for granted seemed like an untouchable dream to me. All the greatness that my potential afforded me seemed counter to that dream of contentment. Yeah, I could go after a career. I could be the next Hillary Clinton, using my intelligence to climb ever higher societies echelons, wealth, power, an impressive resume, being responsible for decisions and actions that history will remember and look back on as either successes or failures. I admire those women who are achieving power and greatness, but I don't want to be one of them.
So here it is, the greatness that I have achieved in life and continue to achieve. I have figured out that while I can have it all, I don't want it all. I have figured out exactly what defines my own personal happiness and I've fought to obtain it. I believe that narrowing down your own definition of happiness in this world of mixed messages and unending judgement from everyone around us is an incredible feat.
My personal happiness is the following:
- A small life. A content little life where every day I pretty much do what it is I feel like doing.
- The security of a house that I can afford with enough room for privacy, but not so large that I don't know where everyone is. A house that can be messy and I can put some nails in the wall without giving a crap about marring the surface.
- Steady income. It's a modest income, but it's steady, reliable. I trust that my husband will never really be out of a job because retail will always exist and he has about 25 years of experience making him hire-able even if his current company were to go under.
- A husband who works to live, not lives to work.
- My own identity both within my household and outside of it. I do have a freelance career and I'm very good at it. But I've chosen not to pursue it as an all encompassing life career. I go out, do my little video jobs once in a while, and I don't feel the need to put all of my energy into expanding that business. Working once or twice a month is a good balance for me.
- A hobby that I enjoy. I love my little pottery studio. My husband has no interest in learning that hobby, it's all mine. It's something I do just for me.
- A household of people that I adore, and who adore me back. Until this last year, I don't think I realized just how much my husband really loves me. I'm still trying to comprehend why he chooses to love me so much and I'm so grateful that he does. Now we have two more people in the house to adore. As I sit here, typing this out, I have one little girl taking a nap, and another in the playpen next to me, independently playing with her toys, but every once in a while looking over at me, clapping her hands and giggling, just happy that I'm here. I'm happy she's here too.
This is my happiness. A content little life of raising children, loving my husband, and having a few little things to enjoy that make me a complete person when they aren't around. I have fought hard for this. I have battled my way through bipolar disorder to achieve the ability to be content. I fought through shyness and stepped beyond my comfort zone to find the man that I can enjoy growing old with. I have persevered through infertility and loss to fill my house with people I love. I'm not responsible to the world to explore my potential for greatness beyond my own happiness. I can let those trains roll by.
I got a call from my mother yesterday. She's got some things going on today and won't be available to call me and she wanted to acknowledge my first Mother's Day. She said she's proud of me. She said that I'm her hero. That she's so proud of everything I did to bring my girls into the world, the battle I had to fight and how I fought it, and the every day success of being a good mom and a good person. I was afraid she was disappointed that I didn't live up to my potential. That I didn't take advantage of the choices her generation worked so hard to provide for me.
But that's just the point, she fought for me to have choices, not to insist that I choose a career that wasn't available to the women of her generation, just to expand the available options I could choose from.
I choose to be a full time wife and mom (at least for now) and I'm proud of that decision. To those women who choose to achieve greatness in other avenues either instead of, or in addition to being a wife and mother, bravo to you as well. Bravo to every person who has figured out where their happiness lies and lives every day the way they want to. Greatness isn't having it all, it's choosing what you want and having that instead.