On rewriting our limitations:
I tell my girls they can be anything, not because I believe they can be, but because I want them to believe it.
I wanted to be a writer as early as I can remember. I wrote short stories and filled pages and pages of blank books my mom would bring home for me with my 7-year-old scrawl of tales about ants fallen into oatmeal bowls and mistaken for raisins, and giants who just wanted to be loved—but I didn’t believe I could be a writer for nearly 30 years after that initial spark.
I’d been writing for years by the time my new friend (now my best friend) told me over the phone—plainly shocked at my misunderstanding—that I am a writer. I mean, she’d been editing my work for awhile at this point—how could I not call myself a writer?
I couldn’t call myself a writer because I was calling myself too many other things.
I was not “writer,” but “unworthy” or “not good enough” or “too privileged a housewife who can write in her spare time” or “not privileged enough to know anyone that might actually help my voice be heard.” I was busy taking note of all the ways that I wasn’t a writer to notice that I had become one.
I don’t have a degree in anything related to literature. (Read my bio.) Sure, I took lit classes in college, but I’m a geologist, with a minor in sociology. I’m a yoga teacher. (I have certifications and registrations to prove that, but I don’t have any pieces of paper or diplomas with my name and “writer” printed next to it.)
I’m too many other things already, so I can’t be this one more unnecessary label.
I can’t be a “writer” when I want to talk about being a mom, and being a woman and, apparently, all of these facets of my life that people already want to claim full knowledge of, or that I’m not supposed to talk about because it’s not feminist enough.
I’m a feminist—I believe in my equality to any other gender so much that I know my inferiority, but I’m not supposed to talk about that, because I’m a feminist.
And then I had kids.
I had a daughter first, before I had another daughter five years later. Surrounded by girl children, I’m reminded daily that I’m a woman, even if it’s not polite to address this elephant in the room, lest I offend another woman, with girl children, who’s nothing like me in any other way besides our femaleness.
My oldest loves to cook. A lot. She’ll ask to watch cooking shows instead of Sesame Street. I’ll turn one on, and she excitedly runs to the kitchen to get pots and pans to “cook” along with the show. I’ve told her that she can cook food for a living when she gets older if she wants to. I guess I’m supposed to mean this in a “manly” chef kind of way, and not for other females, like how I cook for a living (being a stay-at-home mom and all).
I’m supposed to apologize for not working outside of my home—if I’m a feminist. But then that all changes (so moody is our gender!) and it’s actually completely feminist to stay home, but only if I pretend not to like it and complain a lot.
I try not to complain. I try not to, but I do. In part this is because it’s purely fictional to think that girl children aren’t ferociously active, or into roughhousing, or that they are quiet and doll-like. (I have two of them, and I can vouch for the wonderful loudness of their voices, and for all the jumping off of stairs and furniture.)
So I tell my girls they can be anything, or anyone. I tell them this in the hopes of planting a seed of self-belief. I don’t for a second think that we all possess equal skills, but that each of us hone and have in-born traits that make us unique gifts to this world.
My girls are my gift to the world. Nothing that I write or create or craft or edit or publish or work to obtain will ever be as wondrously worthwhile as these two beings I made. They are my gift to the world, and I’m fortunate beyond words I’m capable of expressing to be their mom, but I am more than a mother, more than a woman, more than a wife, more than a privileged college-educated white person.
I am more than these things because I am honest enough to know that I am them, even if I finally at 36 believe I can be anyone.