Hi, My Name is Sarah. I’m a _____.
Here’s the acid shame that lives in my belly and flops like a fish up into my throat: I’m not making money, and therefore, I must be nothing.
For years now, since I quit my real job to become a writer, and also to raise some kids and a small food business, I’ve felt like I’m wandering off the path. And the path is there for a reason. The path is ambition; it’s money, prestige, bigger house, higher degree and title, more security, certainty, respect. It’s success, as we all know it and accept it.
To step off the path feels dangerous and presumptuous. How dare I? The path is there for a reason. It makes sense, gives us structure and goals, keeps us from anarchy within ourselves and as a society as a whole…right? It tells us how to look, how to behave, what the hard requirements are for you to be considered a worthy, good, person. Look this way, strive for these successes, want this, aim for this inside and outside yourself. Conformity is key, there’s a sense that your belonging, security, even safety depends on it.
If you’re born not following the rules of the path- you’re not white, you’re not male, you’re not small and attractive by the path rules, you’re already at risk of being pushed off the edge. Author Sonya Renee Taylor refers to it as the ‘ladder,’ and how body shapes, skin colors, and gender stack up on the hierarchy we’ve created.
I am struggling against the magnetic pull back to this (patriarchal/capitalistic) path: viewing work outside the home/making money as the only thing valuable and worthy. It’s sexist, I know. Women are leaving/losing jobs at an absurd rate during this pandemic, and there’s this sort of gross impression, directed soley at this group of the workforce, that if you decided to go ahead and indulge and have kids, than you have to suffer the conequenecs of figuring out how to raise them right WHILE earning your place in this world with a real job. Pandemic making it harder? Figure it out.
I’m trying to let myself off this hook, this path, this sexist self-loathing messaging. Allow for how much work this is and how it’s worthwhile, to them, to me, even to society. Again, always acknowledging the privilege of having choices, options, money, a spouse to help carry the load.
I’m trying to see the path’s trap, to have a sense of value independent of the path, but this shit is DEEPLY engrained. I feel an urgent panic, a sick feeling like I’m breaking the rules, like I’ll get in trouble, like I’ll get caught. Like when it all falls apart and I get eaten or fall off a cliff, everyone on the path, will look down on me and say, “See?”
The path is more than tempting. It’s a threat to leave it.
Every day I learn a little bit more and choose a little bit more deliberately. It’s a constant struggle and in moments of stress during this major set of life changes we’re facing, I CRAVE the comfort and certainty of the path.
My brave is telling me to stay in the brush and see how it goes. I want to make decisions out of courage instead of fear. It’s hard, but each day, I’ll take one tiny footstep at a time.