My friend Amy turned to me, a double IPA in one hand and a tiara at the ready. We were two women at a bar on a Monday night, something she marveled at when I sat down. When she was 18, she explained, people didn’t believe she’d be anything other than a wife. She was smart, sure, and capable. But “wife” was the job title she seemed best suited for–merely because she’s a woman.
Amy’s 57th birthday was the next day. We are more alike than different, but decidedly not of the same generation.
When I left home at 18, my mom sat me down to deliver important instruction: You can always come home, she said. No matter what happens in life, you have a place here. That sort of support is the undercurrent of my life. Mom and Dad always believed I could accomplish whatever I dreamed of, including becoming a writer. I would be defined by who I am, not whose last name I carried.
It’s been six months since I parted ways with a man who I thought I would marry. For almost three years, being half of that particular couple was a significant part of my identity. I didn’t define myself solely as his girlfriend, but I was loved and loved well. It shaped me.
In the months since, though, I’ve tried many things for the first time.
It’s not that he held me back. He supported and encouraged me at every turn, celebrating my successes and striving to understand things he didn’t. After the first yoga class I taught, for example, he offered detailed feedback that I employed the next week. I believe he is as much a feminist as I am. But it’s easy to become comfortable in relationship, and sometimes I would opt for our regular routine over something different. If anything, I tried fewer things because I was comfortable.
At 34, I have a well-defined sense of self, but I also recognize that I’ve got plenty of life to live and learn. So when my regular routine vanished, I tried new things–and held onto several things I gained from that relationship. (Yes, I still watch the UFC.) I’m fortunate to be reminded by the women and men in my life that my individuality matters, that I am capable and that being a woman is a wonderful thing.
New things I tried this year (mostly post-breakup):
- Visited rural Texas. On purpose.
- Discussed Tinder with Pat Conroy (yes, really, and no, he isn’t on it. He’s married, silly.)
- Played on the company kickball team
- Joined a gym
- Started hiking kind of often. Ish.
- Danced in the dark
- Mixing first-person storytelling with reporting
- Switched to cruelty-free beauty products
- Bought my own symphony tickets
- Bought tickets overseas
- Traveled across the country on almost no notice
- Experimented with weekly podcasting
- Began teaching a weekly yoga class
- Filmed a yoga video