Saturday, July 6, 2013

This Whole Weird 'Grown Up' Thing.

Hey, I'm back! I could say I was busy and it wouldn't be entirely untrue. But it's more that I didn't really know what to write about. And now I do.

So I just read this amazing, life-changing article on NewStatesman call "I was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl". And other than loving its every word, I have a few thoughts.

First of all, the premise that girls grow up expecting to be the supporting players in someone else's story. I can't argue with that -- for the most part. What I can say is that it highlights the central tension in my life -- the nameless, floating sadness that has plagued me for the past few years. That which has torn a hole through my early thirties.

Emily

You see, I didn't grow up that way. Oh, sure: I was exposed to Disney Princesses. No doubt. Belle from Beauty and the Beast was my favourite. But only in the beginning of the movie. You know, when she's running through fields singing about how everyone else she knows has sold their lives so frustratingly short and how none of them understand how much more she wants for her life. Totally identified with that. Maybe now even more than when I was nine and was first enchanted by Belle's ambition.

What really bothered me, then and now, was the end of the movie. I mean, girl starts out by wanting adventure and ends up being some dude's wife in his castle down the lane? Not so damn adventurous.

I blame Emily of New Moon.



(holy crap. I just did a search of Emily of New Moon and there's an anime version someone made of it. That just made my life a thousand times over! Someone get me a subbed version, like now.)

Anyways, Emily's was the story that made me discover that I was a writer. About a thousand years old, a found a smelly copy in my elementary school library, and that was that. I was in love. It will probably always be my favourite book, even if I try to rhyme off more sophisticated titles nowadays.

The most important aspect of the book is that this novel is Emily's story. She is the protagonist, she is the main character and in the third and last book of the series, she moves to New York City to become a journalist. She has a career that she is determined, even as a little girl, to pursue. She has mentors along the way.

Maybe it was reading such a story about a little girl during my formative years that has led, inevitably, to this point. Because now I cannot find in my life another reader of the book who believes in the story. Deeply. At the phase in my life, it seems all my like-aged female friends read those other stories. Stories in which girls stayed girls, never to grow up but to become a supporting character in someone else's story.

Adventure

On top of writing little stories and poems and dreaming of being big enough to be a real grown up writer, I used to look through this giant Reader's Digest atlas that my parents owned. I wanted to travel. I wanted to be an explorer. I was so sad as a realized slowly as I grew up what borders meant and how restrictive they were.

My need for adventure has led me down some interesting roads. I've lived in eight different cities and towns in this country, and it is one of the (many, complex) reasons why I fell in love with and committed to an Air Force man. The life that stretching out before us will always be uncertain. We may never know where we'll be living next. It is one of the things that makes me happiest about our union -- we both embrace the uncertainty.

Grown-Up Career

But being open to adventure is easier for some, it seems, than for others. It is easy for me to accept a life in which I will always be moving, never being rooted. I am a writer. I write sci fi, I write fantasy. All I need is a laptop for my career. But for others, the prospect of being a military spouse can be daunting. It can mean giving up on one's own story to be a supporting player in someone else's story. I am lucky that I have the opportunity to have it both ways: to be a (grown-up) supportive partner as well as having support for my own endeavours from my spouse. What bothers me about some of my female friends is not so much the agony they feel at this prospect, as it is the gleeful way they speak about their husbands' careers at length. Sometimes, when we have a 'girls' night', I feel like we may not have even bothered, since so much of the talk is taken up in either their husbands' careers or, when the ladies' futures are spoken about, it's in relation to the men: the marriages that are coming, the babies that are coming. It is all very tedious.

Having it Both Ways

But how can I blame my friends? When, really, in the awkwardness of my social interactions I deny myself the chance to be brave. I want it both ways, it seems. I want to fit in. To seem like I am just a supporting player in someone's else story. I fold my hands and bemoan my inability to find work as a teacher. I hide the writer part of me. I pretend as if I don't have my own story. I pretend as if my story is not interesting.

And it's the same when we hang out with the guys as well. Most of the time I am the only girl who shows up. I'm not sure where the only girls go, but my drive for adventure (and fun) will not let me stay at home when there are parties afoot. But there, too, I use the excuse of how awkward it would be to tell any of our friends that I am a writer. I imagine the conversation. I have imagined it so many, many times. It goes like this: "Yeah, I'm taking this correspondence course in writing fiction." "Oh, yeah? You're writing a novel? What's it about?" "It's about robots..."

And that's when Imaginary friend laughs.

So the morale of the story? I should grow up. I should be brave. I know the point of my life was never to live happily ever after. It was not to find a handsome prince (although I have, into the bargain) and it was not to have children. The point of life is contribute something of good to this crazy beast we call humanity, and to do it through writing. So I have to be brave. I have to be myself.