Society 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.
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.