This post is written by my sweet friend Katy to kick off Opaline Hue’s Recharge series. Recharge brings you posts from others in the Opaline Hue community who want to share their rich wisdom with you! Learn how Katy embraces her life as she navigates dichotomies, movie stereotypes and what ambition really means.
“Your sister is more driven, but you’re more interesting”
This is what my mom said to me one day off the cuff like 1.) It was a fact that we all already agreed upon and 2.) Like those two things (ambition & a personality) are mutually exclusive.
My sister has a career path she’s never wavered on, has single-mindedly pursued, and is very gifted in. I have had 4 jobs in the last 4 years all in different fields, have lived in just as many apartments, and have put most of my energy into my interests and my friendships, distinct from anything that has to do with my career and apart from where I get my income.
The dichotomy of “driven” and “interesting” is not unique to my mother (whom I love and who would be mortified that anything she said about me would stick in such a way that I would write about it.) Just think of the difference between these 2 characters from any romantic comedy:
We open on the first woman in pink spandex, talking into bluetooth while riding a stationary bike. She just won a virtual race up a hill or something. Cut to the same woman calling the shots at work and ordering around her assistant to “keep up,” and invariably doesn’t know love when it’s right in front of her. She doesn’t have a complex backstory or a fun hobby or a sense of humor--she has to get this report to the board by the end of the day! She is also often portrayed as unkind, selfish, and unfeminine, and not self-aware.
The second woman is in an indie movie. She has specific, iconic fashion sense. She’s quirky, quippy, artistic and likes sad music. She’s emotional, dramatic, beautiful, sometimes tragic, and usually has a nondescript job that gives her unlimited availability to spend all day on weird but aesthetically-pleasing adventures in a Wes Anderson/Garden State universe. She’ll join your band or roller derby team, and she’s probably about to fall in love with whoever that skinny white guy is over there.
These 2 portraits of “types of women” in movies are problematic for lots of reasons, but for my purposes, they one-dimensionally say: if career isn’t everything then it’s nothing. If you’re not competitive, you’re aimless. If you’re whimsical, you’re not logical, if you’re emotional, you’re not powerful. If you’re relational then you’re not successful, or vice versa for all of the above.
The real women I know aren’t like that. They have goals and ambitions in all areas of life - sometimes they’re driven in their career, sometimes they’re tenacious in their other passions that have nothing to do with income or upward mobility. They are tenaciously pursuing healthy relationships on their teams at work, with their friends and family & in their communities. They relentlessly pursue doing things well, even when it’s being done quietly or just for herself or just for another, or for no reason at all.
Just because your goals are not related to the next rung on the career ladder doesn’t mean they don’t require strength, patience, skill, drive, endurance and wisdom. I think it’s time to take a look at what “kinds” of women get to be driven & ambitious, and what “kinds” of women are supposed to have a personality and just be fun to be around. These are not mutually exclusive--everyone is both, in their own unique combination. We all have goals and things we’re working towards. Here are some ways to re-define your own passions and ambitions and work toward them with energy and force (whether you don a blazer or a flower crown).
Define your goals and be truthful about them
They might not look like anybody else’s. For me, a personal goal I have is to learn more about my body and how I treat it. This has required emotional intelligence to overcome untruths about my body, shame about what I don’t know, dealing with my insecurities, etc. But it has also required strength and drive to try new activities and daily rhythms, and the diligence to seek out conversations with women who are smarter than me about these things. Let’s be real with ourselves about where in our lives we want to grow, independent of any “shoulds,” and pursue it without shame.
Know what motivates you.
True confessions: Goals alone don’t really motivate me to change. I’m not competitive and need to align any ideas with my own compass and framework of seeing the world. Someone telling me that sometime is good for me isn’t enough for me to do it. I have to believe that it’s good for me based on my own measurements. Figure out what motivates you and set your goals in a way that is inspiring for you. Again, this might not look like it does for your friends or for the lifestyle blogs you read. Learn about how you work best and run after it
Let your community in
On your goals and share the why’s of them. This is more than just accountability in a “don’t let me eat anymore of those Oreos” kind of way. This is about support in your friendships at the core of who you are who you want to be. Share what you’re working on with a group of others that understand the goal, or understand you, deeply. This will help feel less like you’re floating out in this new thing without a tether, and more like you’re grounded in a real journey with support. Also, be specific about what you might need from them to be successful.
Get comfortable with failing
Or changing your mind, or getting interrupted, distracted, tired. All of these things are going to happen to you on your journey toward your goals. It doesn’t mean that you’re not a driven, goal-oriented, ambitious, kickass lady. It means you live in the world where things don’t happen linearly, that not all things are in your control, and timelines are bound to be stunted. But it doesn’t mean that we’re failing or that we give up.
Let’s not limit ourselves to the one-dimensional “woman who works and has goals but it means she has to forego a rich life” or the equally one-dimensional “interesting girl with no path in life.” Let’s instead be the girl in the coming-of-age movie, who has beautiful, complicated adventures featuring many characters, and at the end of the movie, can take a more mature and truthful look at herself, her skills, her dreams, & her community. She sees her surroundings and landscape with fresh eyes and is ready to jump in to what her life has for her.
So much thanks to Katy for her wisdom. I laughed out loud more than once when reading this post. She so powerfully names the boxes we have created in our society to more comfortably place people. She says it so well when she wrote: “These are not mutually exclusive--everyone is both, in their own unique combination.” Katy reminded me that I don’t fit into a career woman box, or a married box, or any other that I might place myself in out of laziness or convenience. I am so many things and so are you. As Katy said- Let’s not limit ourselves!
Follow Katy @katy.ramsey on Instagram.