Right before I moved abroad people suddenly began making it abundantly clear how excited they were for me to find a dude. In Europe. Because, you know, that’s why I’m going.
I can’t tell you how many times I heard, ohhh you’re going to fall in love!
Which, okay, cool, thanks, I’m glad you want that for me… but someone tell me…
So why is it that when a man sets off to travel we praise his bravery, independence and sense of adventure, but when a woman leaves to live in Europe we romanticize how she’ll be swept off her feet? Sure, she’s also brave, independent and adventurous, but it’s celebrated less.
Don’t get me wrong, falling in love is an amazing thing! I am in no way running away from that. I love to be in love! I day dream, I’m human. But what does bother me is that the first and most exciting thing that comes to mind in a woman’s travels is romance. Sure I love the attention of a smart, funny man, believe me, I do! But isn’t it okay to want other things for myself too? And maybe even more?
I love this quote by Dr. Seuss. I know, I know, it’s from a kid’s book, but it’s really relevant! I don’t want to sit in one place forever. I’m aware that living in one location your whole life is a-okay, there is nothing wrong with that at all. But knowing that my way of life back home is not the only way of life, and with my innately curious nature that seems to be inherent to my being, I desire to experience cultural avenues different than that I was born into.
A friend of mine recently got me listening to Beyonce’s new album (Yeaaah Bey!) and I was blown away by an excerpt Beyonce included in one of her songs from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech titled “We Should All Be Feminists.” I identified with it. A lot. And don’t misunderstand me. I’m not some overly bitter female picketing for women’s rights all the time, but it’s still a thing. And I’m aware of it. Anyways, this is what she says:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise, you will threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now, marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage
and we don’t teach boys the same? We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. Feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
Before I moved to Spain I struggled a lot with the idea of marriage as this huge life goal that I needed to start working towards. I was 27 years old, I had better get a move on! Not because my parents told me that, and not even because I particularly wanted to be married with kids anytime soon, but because that was the ideal I was continuously exposed to.
You always hear, I don’t know from where, but from somewhere, that women begin dreaming of their wedding day since they’re little girls.
And then there was little me, dreaming of being the next Harriet the spy and building a treehouse in my backyard. Haha. Needless to say, it’s conflicting.
There have been times that I’ve thought, “maybe everyone else knows something that I don’t.” Maybe getting married is the obvious, clear path to a happy life, and maybe I should get on board. Before I moved I had a good job (albeit one that I hated), hilarious friends, a great family, played on a softball team, jogged almost daily, grocery shopped in my yoga pants at Trader Joe’s, and ate healthy. Doing what I thought I “should” be doing.
It wasn’t until I did something outside the normal path that I regained awareness of what I’ve always wanted. Culture, travel, variety, exposure to realms outside my own. Being in Spain, away from so much influence, has reminded me that marriage is not my #1 goal in my life. And I don’t think it ever has been. My parents never told me I should be married by a certain age, and never ask when I think I’ll start popping out kids. And I thank my lucky stars for being born to such accepting humans. Sure I want to be in love some day, have children, and provide a happy life for them full of opportunity, but I want other things too.
And also, just because I don’t have marriage on a pedestal that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy dressing feminine, doing my hair, or feeling pretty. That’s just not all I am about. And I don’t believe that’s all other girls are about either.
I want to learn about the world, to know people different from me on a deeper level, not just by observing and passing through on vacation, but by loving, engaging, asking questions and hearing their thoughts, opinions and beliefs. Opinions and beliefs that maybe I hadn’t thought of before, and possibly don’t even agree with, but are worth hearing nonetheless.
So despite the fact that I haven’t found someone to romance me, (at least not long term- don’t worry, I’ve had my fun!) or zip thru Rome with on a Vespa scooter, this has been the happiest year of my life, and I have found a lot of other very useful things!
Like self-confidence when traveling alone to foreign countries. My ability in speaking another language. Self-contentment. Packing tips (I know everyone says it and no one listens, but less really is more!) Independence. Peace. New ideas. New ways of looking at life. New faucets of my identify, even. (I didn’t even know I was a feminist until my roommate explained to me what the word feminist meant! Ha! How sad is that!?) Things that I believe are really valuable in leading a happy life.
Things that I don’t know I would have found in a significant other.
And now, whenever I do fall in love next, I’ll be all the more prepared.