Ode to My Twenties by Anjeanette LeBoeuf


AnjeanetteSociety has created this vortex of fear surrounding women aging. Yet, as I turn 30, I am only feeling awe. Awe over everything I accomplished in my twenties and awe in all the things yet to be realized in my thirties. The interesting thing is how other people are experiencing me turning thirty. Some are reminiscent of their twenties or how their experienced their thirties. Others start to bring up certain things which are apparently still lacking in my life. The biggest ones are a husband and children. They look at my eve of thirty-hood as the clock ticking away on me finding love and most definitely on my biological clock.

So what makes an independent, single woman so very scary? Why is it, that every male in the last three years that I have gone out on a date with have staggered, questioned, or simply hit the road when they find out the number of degrees I have and the career I want? And people still question why I am single. I am single because my passion, my drive, and my purpose has defied what society has groomed me for. I am single because I choose to devote my time to my PhD and to my career. I am single because I am extremely happy in being able to be my own person, to make my own decisions, and the live out the dreams that I have made. And it is society which has taught men that women like me are too high maintenance.

I have struggled with the fact that I was raised with the encouragement that I could be and do anything. But I have also been raised in a community that treats my independence, my accomplishments, and even my drive as something to be afraid. Recently an article came out entitled, “She doesn’t need you: Why everyone is afraid of an independent woman” and I found myself not only agreeing but fist bumping in solidarity:

We will dutifully teach a young girl the utmost importance of thinking for herself and making her own money, yet when she emerges into the real world as strong, powerful, freethinking force of girl nature — we instantly alienate her.
We’re encouraging them to speak their glorious minds, and when they do, we tell them how radical and unlovable they are.
We’re teaching them the importance of being self-sufficient, yet we still instruct them to marry only wealthy men.

This article rings true because in all aspects of my life I have received equal amounts of validation and disapproval. When I decided to attend graduate school, many were in awe of my decision and many more told me that I was sure to meet my husband there. When I decided to continue in graduate school and obtain my PhD, I was met with questions about why I would willingly stay in school or if I was addicted to being a ‘permanent student.’ When I chose to attend the Women’s Studies in Religion Program, I was asked if I was going to be a nun.

religious studies nun meme

The best reactions were from people concerned that I would become an angry, man-hating, anarchist feminist or that by studying other religions, I would be swayed to the dark side and convert. All of which are my choices, yet when I make one – I have plenty of critics. Many reactions are mingled with awe and pity. Feminism has made me aware, I have power to make my own choices, shape my life – and I have chosen one of knowledge and adventure.

My twenties were full of adventure. I have gained and lost friends along the way. I have witnessed my dreams becoming reality. I have traveled to 8 countries, sat in the presence of the Dalai Lama, Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis, and President Jimmy Carter. I have witnessed my godchildren in their earliest days. I have cheered on two of my favorite sports teams in their respective arenas, made spur of the moment trips with friends, and have spent countless hours roaming the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland.

When I made the decision to drive across country to attend an intensive summer language program in the Midwest I was told that I was fool hearty in driving by myself, that it was not safe – yet I went anyways because if I had been a 28 year old man, no one would have bat an eye over my cross-country drive. Many would have even said it was a coming of age, soul searching adventure. The road trip was a huge success, both there and back. I got to see firsthand what the roads of America had to offer, the wonders of the national parks, and the power that happens when left alone with hundreds of miles to cross. It was also on this trip where I found it fascinating how uncomfortable people became when they noticed I was by myself. There were looks of confusion, worry, and even pity. The looks were hardly given to the lone male that would walk in to pay for his gas, pick up a quick meal, hike a trail, or hit the bathroom.

As my thirtieth birthday approaches, I am not sad over saying goodbye to my twenties or what is considered ‘my youth.’ I am proud of the miles, the adventures, the heartaches, the successes and the failures. My twenties have shown me that I have new dreams to make, more miles to explore, and many adventures to go on. If “Mr.Right” decides to show up along the way, yippee and if he doesn’t, my life will be just as glorious. I thank you twenties for shaping me into a fiercely fabulous woman and you better be ready for me thirties, because I’m coming for you.

An independent woman attains independent thought. She has the most powerful freedom of all, freedom of the mind.

Anjeanette LeBoeuf is currently studying for her qualifying exams in Women Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. Her focuses are divided between South Asian religions and religion and popular culture. She has become focused on exploring the representations of women in all forms of popular culture and how religion plays into them. Recently she drove across country to learn Sanskrit at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is an avid supporter of both soccer and hockey. She is also a television and movie buff which probably takes way too much of her time, but she enjoys every minute of it.

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Categories: Aging, college, Dreams and Dreaming, Education, fear, Feminist Awakenings, Gender, General, Herstory, Women's Voices

Tags: , , , ,

22 replies

  1. Wonderful post.

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  2. I think you are awesome! And will continue to thrive and grow and amaze for many more decades.

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  3. On numerous occasions, I have met single women who are “strong, powerful, freethinking force of girl nature” and they continue to preserve patriarchal ideas of who their ideal partner ought to be. They refuse to consider for one minute marrying a man who is younger than them, financially dependent on them, and who would stay at home and take care of the children. They want a partner whose professional and financial ambitions will meet or exceed their own. Men who do not conform to society’s idea of “success” are “losers who want to freeload off me”.

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    • I think your post helps to bring up the systematic entrenchment that both men and women are brought up in. Not only are women accepting the fact that in order for their continual freedom, their partner has to mimic that but that men are told that being a partner to a successful woman is a marker of their failure as men. But what I find truly interesting is that we are still forcing that marriage is the ultimate success marker – that one has to become married in order to have ‘made it.’

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  4. What fun! I can sort of remember my 20s. I was teaching English, speech/theater, and French in two high schools in southeast Missouri and central Illinois. I was too “thoughty” for both of those schools, but when I started graduate school in my late 20s, I found my home.

    Every decade of our life has its adventures to be celebrated or sometimes to be hidden from. Good for you for having had such a wonderful decade. I bet every decade of your life will bring new wonders to you.

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  5. My eldest daughter’s birthday was this week. She’s been anticipating it intensely for at least the last three months– talking about it almost every day. I had a chat with her earlier in the week where I acknowledged to her that I could see this felt like a big birthday to her. She told me that it is. That being the age she is transitioning into is amazing and awesome. That she’s sure being this age for the next year will be fabulous.

    I found myself thinking that I should approach every birthday this way too: “Being 12 (or 23, or 37, or 46, or 52, or 68, or 75, or 88, or 91, or 105) IS amazing. This year of my life will be fabulous.”

    I know in truth, not every year is necessarily fabulous. But what a great declaration to start off that next adventurous trip around the sun, no matter where it ends up taking you with each revolution.

    Bright birthday blessings to you– May your year be fabulous!

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  6. Well said….. I totally agree and sadly at thirty three and last semester of course work comments only get worse..

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  7. Wow, you are an awesome woman! I love your attitude and the way you seize life with both hands. That is the best way to live. Why is it that we always think people have to be married to be happy? When my husband died of alcoholism one of my elderly and well-meaning cousins called to give me her condolences and then started telling me how to find my next husband! I was appalled and angry, to say the least. She finally caught herself and said that I probably didn’t want to be hearing about that now and I told her I didn’t! When I complained to my mother she pointed out that this cousin’s husband is nearly 90 and she is probably fearful about how she’ll survive if he dies before her.

    I also related to your road trip and people’s reactions to it. Two years ago I drove my mother and her cat and dog across country to my home in Maine. It was an interesting trip and we didn’t run into any major problems. What struck me was the reactions of people when they found out I was going to drive across country. The men thought it sounded like fun and some shared stories of similar trips they had taken and the women all thought I was so brave and some told me they could never have done that.

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    • Thank you so much for your post Linda. You are right in how people are instantly afraid when women are unattached or become unattached. Society has created this notion that if one does not obtain a permanent partner then one is either lacking or in constant need for one. That being said, I do think we as humans tend to be more communal but I long for the day when we can celebrate the diverse and complex ways that it is achieved.

      I’m started to wonder why is it that our society (especially in America) road trips are heavily gendered.

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  8. Thanks Anjeanette for your great post and for living such an empowered life. To keep it up, I suggest getting with more independent women like yourself and forming some way to stay in touch and support each other- a sort of coven. Seems like the personal life is where sexism bites lots of women hard.
    I assume you are hetero if you are looking for a man as a partner. My suggestion is to put that off until you are firmly established with your women’s support system (coven). And really go for it in your professional spiritual/spirit filled life. I’d love to hear what jobs you will apply for. Do you want us here to check out job listings in our area for you? Director of women’s center at local university, lobbyist of battered women’s center, you name it and I’ll keep an eye out in my community for you.

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  9. Hi there! As a 51-year-old woman, I can assure you that you are not saying goodbye to your youth at your 30th birthday. Someone had to say it so it may as well be me: You’re still a baby :) Don’t be in a rush to get all serious about age, it’s really just a number. I also wanted to say: WHO are these people who are giving all these negative messages? I was shocked. You probably want to hang out with different people, people who don’t question your motives when you are obviously doing something pretty healthy for yourself. I wouldn’t listen to them either, you are 100% right to disregard them. My only experience with people in your age group right now come from my stepson and his fiancée, they are both around your age. You would think getting married was the be-all and end-all. They have a 18-month engagement and I’m telling you, it’s one endless itinerary of parties to celebrate this couple, of course with gifts that the couple has made a registry for, in essence telling us “Okay this is what you spend your money on to buy us”. What happened to giving gifts because something about the gift reminded you of the recipient? Anyway, I could go on and on about this wedding they are planning which has totally turned me off. They do not seem to share my values (I got married in a civil service, no honeymoon even) so I do feel for you if this is what you are up against. Hang in there!

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    • Hi Diane,

      The majority of the responses I have gotten is mainly from extended family, acquaintances, and strangers. My extended family’s viewpoint is largely that they want to see me happy, and to them happiness is finding a husband and having children.

      And the wedding industry is crazy!

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  10. Dear Anjeanette,

    Your article is very engaging. It is so good that you are contemplating your life as you go. Many things you say, stir thoughts in me. I too am a very independent woman, and that is rare, so I know a lot about the journey, being quite a lot older than you. You are young and life’s vitality is so beautiful and amazing—yes, awesome! How wonderful to appreciate each experience as we go, because we never know how long we have. And you certainly seem to have that sense, to be savoring your time. Congratulations on your marvelous accomplishments (countless, I am sure, not mentioned here.) All that you do as a free and brave woman sets an example for the women still held back by their fears. It will take a long time for women to heal from the unspeakable brutality of five thousand years of male domination—which continues in every arena today, even though women are making rapid progress.

    People mark their birthdays, and especially their decades, in American culture. But as my spiritual teacher Amma, whom I hope you will meet some day on your journey, says: “Each birthday takes us one year closer to death. The real birthday is when you realize you were never born and will never die.” The body is mortal, and most people are not spiritually awake and so fear death and aging. It is frustrating, painful, and boring how many women are obsessed with their bodies, still experiencing themselves as objects in the male gaze, as Simone de Beauvoir explored back in the nineteen forties.

    Like you, I ran around the world in my twenties and I did get raped, so in a grandmotherly way I hope you will be wisely careful. There is unfortunately a lot of danger and unpleasantness for women everywhere in the world. Men—with a few advanced exceptions—do not want to give up their power and they are aggressively fighting for it. They do not want women in “their” world. It’s that simple. It is hard to be an independent woman in a man’s world, but it is magnificent that you are brave and strong and determined enough to be one. And there is a mighty, parallel world of women ever growing. Keep on being strong!

    A woman does not need a man. As you intimate, if Life, our Mother, wishes you to have a partner, you will be given one who appreciates you dearly. But human relationships are extremely expensive, so in a way you are blessed. As for procreation and adding additional humans to the Human Plague now devastating our planet—I congratulate you for not worsening the situation and warmly encourage you to continue on this path. In fact, I thank you deeply on behalf of all Nature. If you have strong maternal urges, there are so many children who need a mother, and would love to be adopted.

    Don’t worry too much about what others think. Go inside and deepen your self knowledge. Sometimes feedback is helpful, often it is nothing but another ego reacting. I pray you will find your purpose in life and contribute much beauty and happiness to the world, using the precious education and talents you have been blessed with.

    If it is any consolation, I am definitely not afraid of you. Feel free to contact me any time at JanineCanan.com or Facebook. —Janine Canan, author, psychiatrist & volunteer for Amma

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