Have you ever had a nagging feeling you’re forgetting something? In a frenzy, you empty out your purse and ransack your house, but you still can’t figure out what it is?
For five years, I had a lingering feeling that something was missing. At first, I tried to ignore it. Then I’d find myself huddled in the bathroom stall crying at work and pulling all-night food binges. I don’t know if it was the extra ten pounds I had gained or the emotional exhaustion, but finally I surrendered. One evening after work, I laced up my sneakers and headed to the track at a nearby high school to run.
The socially acceptable answer as to why I started running would be to say I wanted to get healthier and lose weight; only that couldn’t be farther from the truth. My newfound running obsession stemmed more out of desperation to outpace the growing emotional turmoil that had ensued as a result of my countless attempts to perform the roles my family and society had placed in my lap.
Nearing my late thirties, my timeline for motherhood had coerced me into making a commitment neither I nor my boyfriend of two and a half years was ready to make.
“It’s time to start building your foundation,” my mother would say, “you’re almost 40.” “It’s time to get married. It’s time to have a baby.”
Like any good girl trying to appease her mother, I did just that. I got engaged to my boyfriend of two and a half years and prepared to take on a ready-made family. (He had two sons from a previous marriage.) I thought it would bring me a sigh of relief, or at the very least, silence my insistent but well-intentioned family members. After all, when you start receiving the book, “The Everything Guide to Pregnancy Over 35,” the message is loud and piercing.
I had exhausted all of my answers to the question: “when are you getting married?” so I presumed getting married was the next logical step. In my quiet moments, however, I had a strong suspicion I might not be the marrying kind — at least not now. I was still trying to find my voice as a woman and, dare I say, a writer.
A precedent is set once a woman arrives in her mid-to-late-thirties. In your twenties, allowances are made but once you hit the big 3-0 every decision and professional and personal mishap count against you. It’s no surprise that your thirties are touted as the unhappiest decade.
A study of 2,000 women revealed that the pressure to juggle work and family life is at its peak at age 34, while women aged 25 tend to be their happiest due to less family and financial obligations.
Most mornings, I question my sanity and have even been known to shout a couple of obscenities before heading out the door to run. Every run begins the same. My body feels like a human wishbone as the wind tugs at my limbs. “Why would anyone want to do this to themselves,” I ask myself. “Better yet, why am I doing this?”
While I loathe the physical discomfort of running, I welcome the distance it has wedged between what is expected of me and the things I want for myself. One foot in front of the other, the ferocious pounding of my feet against the pavement became a defiant act against all the smack talk my inner mean girl spews out as I take another step and run yet another mile.
Sometimes I manage to wrestle self-doubt and social approval to the floor like the time when I called off my engagement, gave up my apartment and moved across state lines to make a new life for myself. Other times, it overtakes me and renders me motionless for days and sometimes even months.
At 39-years-old, I still sometimes find myself caught in an emotional tug of war between embracing who I am as a woman in a society who is hell bent on telling me what size I should be; what I should do with my body; how many men I should allow into my bed; and why I should remain silent.
I started this blog to speak unapologetically about the emotional and social burdens that have plagued woman since Adam forked off his loyalty and snitched on Eve. I hope by sharing my insights and experiences that I can help someone become reacquainted with their own voice that might be lurking underneath the weight of the great female expectations.