It’s official: I have made it to the age where my social media feeds are full of engagement rings, weddings, and babies.
Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating all of these events…but at the same time, it often seems that society doesn’t see a woman as a whole human until she has checked off these items from a list — as if the path to female happiness relies on these, and only these, three steps.
I want to celebrate the other important occasions: the occasions that don’t necessarily fit the traditional definition of womanhood.
Going on your first solo hike, completing an impossible climbing route, making it up that summit….
Why don’t these milestones receive the same amount of praise that finding love does? It’s a new era: women are no longer corseted and constrained to the home. Our paths are no longer set in stone. So isn’t it time that we reconsider the kinds of milestones that define our lives?
After all, when you read about women “having it all,” all usually means having a partner, a family, and a career. Talk about thinking inside the box! What if the happiest day of your life was the day you finally climbed up that impossible rock, instead of the day someone put a rock on your ring finger?
Each and every one of us has something that makes us tick: rivers we want to raft, mountains we hope to climb, roads we need to bike.
For my friend Corazon, it’s running. For Grace, who just received her scuba certification in Borneo, it’s diving. In my case, I feel most complete when I am hiking with my pup on a trail deep into some wilderness. If you were to ask me to describe “my perfect day,” that would be it — not a wedding, with the fancy dress and expensive cake, just walking through groves of pine with snowy peaks towering above me.
When I voice this opinion, though, I often hear, “Just wait, you’ll want those things one day.” Well, what if I don’t? Would it be so terrible to follow my own path, even if it runs through the mountains instead of the chapel? I am complete without the ring or the baby. I lead a life I am proud of and enjoy. And this is true for so many women I know — including my sister!
While the folks asking my sister about her dating life mean no harm, their words imply that there is something wrong with Lindsay and her life. But my sister leads a rich life, full of adventures, and she is happy.
So maybe the problem isn’t my sister’s love life. Maybe — just maybe — those people are operating under too narrow a definition of what happiness is, especially when it comes to the modern woman.
But just because they do doesn’t mean we have to. It’s important that all of us women get to decide the adventures we want to make our own, and it’s equally important that we feel support for our decision from our community of women. It’s amazing what we can accomplish when we experience that type of support — which means it’s time we let ourselves, and each other, off the hook, and stopped trying to squeeze into a one-size-doesn’t-fit-all mold.
So a challenge to you and to all women:
Find your own boxes to check off, whatever they might be.
Allow others to choose their own happiness.
And rejoice in the milestones of all women, big or small, conventional or non-traditional.
Let’s stop trying to “have it all” and start “having what we want.”
I think we all deserve a little less pressure and a few more celebrations, don’t you?
Having spent her childhood summers in the woods, Emily Coleman discovered her love of the outdoors at a very early age. Now a resident of Los Angeles, she escapes most weekends to the mountains with her dog, Lango, who, much to her dismay, still does not enjoy swimming. When she reluctantly returns to civilization, she is a writer and a skater for the L.A. Derby Dolls. You can find her on Instagram at @remixtosubmission.