This past Monday night, my husband and I went to dinner to celebrate my thirty-fifth birthday. He asked me, "What would you say about your thirties?" I knew what was coming next. "Since they're almost over." Despite the joke, it was a good question, and something I've considered, if not actively pursued an answer to. When I look back on my teens and twenties, I see that I've had some powerful narratives informing my decisions and influencing how I carried myself in the world. In my teens, I thought I was just trouble. In my teenage mind, I wanted to believe that it was a good thing, but, for the most part, I knew it was not. In my twenties, I thought I was a partier, which was really only an extension of my past self image, just without a parent to ground me. In any case, adult society doesn't count these types among its most valued members, and even in the midst of playing these parts, I sensed it.
I could have cast myself in these roles thanks to any of a hundred possible combinations of reasons, and it likely wouldn't take too many therapy sessions to sort some of them out. As a parent of two young girls, I've sharpened my senses enough to recognize that we all, women especially, get bombarded every day with reasons to degrade ourselves
---the covers of magazines, commercials and television shows, the way men speak about women, and the way women speak about each other. We can try our best to shield our kids from these factors by keeping the TV off and not leaving trashy magazines lying around the house for our kids to stumble upon, but the toughest thing to control can often be the one thing that we should have complete control over: our own personal narratives.
While no one can avoid occasional adversity, big or small, it’s important to realize that we do choose the role we play in our own stories, and that little eyes and ears are witness to it all. We can make ourselves the damsel in distress, needing rescue at every turn, or the independent heroine, able to handle the pitfalls of everyday life. We can be aggressors, overly critical of each other's flaws, or we can choose to be self-deprecating doormats. Personally, when I look back on my thirties, the wonderful decade in which I became a mom, I’d like to see myself as a loving woman who is characterized by compassion and confidence. If I can do that, I know there’s a good chance that my daughters can, too.