“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition” -Timothy Leary
I was rushing home from work one afternoon. I had a shitload of physics homework that needed to get done, and I was trying to mentally visualize a potential energy problem involving a vertical spring system. Whilst playing with gravity and spring constants, I vaguely heard my name being called.
It was my friend Esther. We were in high school together. Oh my, i think to myself, that was one chick with loads of “potential” energy. I allowed my inner nerd to chuckle.
Back to Esther. In high school, she was worshiped by everyone! She wrote deep introspective articles, she was great with the computer, incredibly artistic and was always involved in school fundraising functions and talent productions. She even got hired by others schools for her talents. She, like everyone else in my class, was married by twenty and started her family. Now, while exchanging pleasantries I couldn't help but notice the empty space where her sparkle used to be. She was leaning on a double carriage, and even with the extra pound, she seemed like a shadow of her former self. She works in a local dry goods shop now.
Same thing happened to Goldy who used to do these adorable little comedy bits between (and during) classes. She now sit at a desk and files her father's paperwork. Malky, the former elimination (remember that game?) champion, is now a stay-at-home mom, and never misses an opportunity to explain how “fulfilling it is to raise such neshomalech”. Chaya Miriam, the genius of the grade, is now grading third grader's math quizzes. All seems content and perhaps even happy with their current life. One can even be right in saying they are happier than me. But there is no doubt that they are not being their happy selves. They bear little to no resemblance to themselves at all.
It was a particularly painful reminder at a cousin’s 'vort' - engagement- a couple of days before pesach. Her chosson seems like a nice guy, he will probably treat her great and they might be very happy together. So I should just wish her a hearty mazel tov, eat a piece of cake, and shake all the necessary hands. But as I walked into the vort, I had a knot in my stomach, and had to consciously paste a smile on my face.
My cousin is the youngest of her family . She is probably the smartest of her siblings, has a heart that bleeds for others and is a blond beauty to boot. She also very absent minded, quirky and has a this greatest sense of humor that is awesomely silly. As I am thinking of her, that knot in my stomach tightens and I remember why I had to work so hard to paste that smile.
I have watched funny girls, intense girls, artistic girls, geeky girls, loud girls and thoughtful girls morph into a predefined mold. They all become: A mother waiting for buses each morning and discussing the latest recipe, scandal, or sale. I see girls who are meant to be lawyers, business owners, poets, actors, doctors, writers, innovators and educators morph into a predefined role that they never consciously choose. They might be happy in their roles they were molded into, but all I can see is wasted potential and empty, overworked eyes. That is the reason for my knot and pasted smile.
It scares me to have to watch that happen again to someone close to me. It scared me to think of that spring stuck, stretched and never really released.
I am not advocating for the career path for all the women around me. All I wish for is for them to realize who they are and can potentially be. All I want is for them to realize that they can choose their future. Although I am far from my goals, I feel so lucky that I am actually working towards fulfilling them. It is a constant battle shaping and defining who you are, but there is nothing like the realization of what you truly are capable of. I wish all the bus-waiting women had the opportunity and resources to experience that feeling too. At the very least, I wish my own flesh and blood were able to wake up and smell their own greatness.