I could talk about understanding how lucky I was to have a whole, intact, lovely family as a kid who let me tromp around as an artist as a child and continue to pursue creativity as an adult – and how long it took me to understand and grow more empathy for others who didn’t have that background. To understand that even as a multiple minority, I’m privileged in ways that I still am reckoning with.
Or, I could have said, “Don’t let [your privilege] blind you too often. Sometimes you will need to push it aside in order to see clearly.” (Thanks, Chimamanda.) (Oh, she probably would also add, on the choice to boldly choose your own path, that “we cannot always bend the world into the shapes we want but we can try, we can make a concerted and real and true effort. Always just try. Because you never know.”)
I could pontificate about how life makes you take your bold statements and value judgments and twist them up and spit them out into other versions of thought. That all the things you judged people on you’d be doing in a year, eating all of the humble pie your 22-year-old body could handle because of a chance meeting outside a sub shop. Another subject I’m still reckoning with, I could have said all of this.
Or, this: “Your standardized ideologies will not always fit your life. Because life is messy.” (Another Adichie masterpiece.)
I could lament the different ways being, well different, makes life more challenging. How many times I’ve been told that I have a bold or dominating personality because I tend to project a level of comfort with who I am that some people (including myself) don’t always feel.
But a wiser woman than I would say, “Our time on earth is short and each moment that we are not our truest selves, each moment we pretend to be what we are not, each moment we say what we do not mean because we imagine that is what somebody wants us to say, then we are wasting our time on earth.” (You wondering who said this? Yeah, it’s a Chimamanda. She also said: “Please do not twist yourself into shapes to please. Don’t do it. If someone likes that version of you, that version of you that is false and holds back, then they actually just like that twisted shape, and not you. And the world is such a gloriously multifaceted, diverse place that there are people in the world who will like you, the real you, as you are.”)
I could wonder about taking a different path in life, one that led me more directly in pursuit of what I thought I wanted in a career at 20. I could talk through dealing with the looks I’ve gotten based on the choices I’ve made, the rolling eyes and you-poor-dear stares from others when I moved through the world answering to the only person who has to live my life: me.
But an easier way would be to say: “Minister to the world in a way that can change it. Minister radically in a real, active, practical, get your hands dirty way.” (Don’t ask who said it. You know.)
I could talk about the plurality of achievement of success as a woman that I’ve grappled and continue to grapple with. What having it all means – and whether or not I want it. But I could leave discussions of womanhood in the modern age to a few more thoughts by a superhero of a person. (Say it with me now: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.)
“Feminism should be an inclusive party. Feminism should be a party full of different feminisms.”
“Never ever accept ‘because you are a woman’ as a reason for doing or not doing anything.”
“Girls are often raised to see love only as giving. Women are praised for their love when that love is an act of giving. But to love is to give and to take. Please love by giving and by taking. Give and be given. If you are only giving and not taking, you’ll know. You’ll know from that small and true voice inside you that we females are so often socialized to silence. Don’t silence that voice. Dare to take.”
Take a minute (or 20) of your life to watch this advice from an honorary big sister.