For the last four years, I’ve been living in Hong Kong. This summer, I went to New York for an internship and found myself attempting to complete a train of thought that had started quite a while ago.
In July, my boyfriend and I were in Saizeriya, a cheap Hong Kong restaurant with Italian food and a Japanese name. We sat and had a deep meaningful conversation about the future. And Anne Marie Slaughter.
She had written one of those articles about success and womanhood. Allies? Enemies? Do discuss.
The title of this piece, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, promised a particularly fatalistic approach to how the two intersect. I truly admired her refusal to place the blame entirely on the evils of paternalism but shuddered at the thought that the true villain is a woman’s nature.
Paragraphs are spent on the special bond between mothers and children and on how that persistent co-dependence makes a quest for true dedication to our careers ultimately hopeless. The mere suggestion made me sink into a stupor of desperation.
When I was still a child and entitled to toy with childish ideas, the plan was always to just not bother with anything confusing. I took to heart something my elementary school teacher had told me: always outline first. I think she was talking about life, or maybe it was drawing, or writing, or painting. Well, it’s something of a universal truth.
In the face of generations of women being stumped by the question of how to balance career and motherhood, I still took much of the same approach.
“Look, I’m fine with putting off the serious, White-House-occupying part of my career until I am 45 years old,” I said to my boyfriend, with the near-crazed eyes of a true problem-solver, “At that point, my children have to be independent, which will happen at the age of 18 because I plan to raise my children well. So I just have to have children by 27. Factor in one year for solidifying the marriage, so married at 26, mother at 27, successful at 45. Done.”
In the summer of 2012, there occurred the Olympics and I was utterly unprepared for their effect on me.
Almost immediately, I was struck down by a fearsome strain of Olympic fever. Being bombarded with images of these magnificent individuals, who set single-minded goals for themselves and then did everything necessary to achieve them. This made the idea of delaying success seem preposterous. It became difficult for me to maintain a grasp on the virtue of balance.
That fever had hit me at a very sensitive place, at that sweet spot where my ambition meets my other motivations and then scoffs at them.
As the summer neared its end, I talked to many people about my ambitions for the future, about what country I want to be in, what kind of law I want to practice, what kind of life I want to commit myself to. And as I weaved tales of future goals and exploits, the true answer to every question had begun to form within me. I know what I want. I want this struggle for success. I want to test my own capabilities. I want to force myself through this process of figuring out what I want from life. That process is all I see of my own path and that is enough of an outline, at least for now.