As I grow older and the mist clouding my future begins to evaporate, I get glimpses of my life, and it seems I’m torn between two paths.
One is domesticity and traditional womanhood. These are the ideas drilled into my head since I was a child. It has the hallmarks of life with a partner and kids. It involves cooking amazing Sunday dinners, baking the best homemade desserts, and figuring out just the right amount of laundry detergent to get the family’s clothes clean and smell just right.
The other path is where I accomplish all my career ambitions, where I’m a successful, influential physician who cares for her patients, and I soar to boundless heights in professional development and accomplishments.
I’ve seen women successfully intertwine those two paths, and that’s what I want for myself, but the hard part is discovering the steps to get the best of both. I have the professional aspect under control. I’m an honors sophomore biochemistry and classics major who has shadowing hours, a solid professional network, and an innate motivation to get my hands on all things healthcare. My concern is the development of that other path.
After watching a Netflix documentary, “In My Mother’s Garden,” I was moved to consider crucial things to the growth of a well-rounded woman. Listening to the women featured in the film prompted me to piece together things I found significant and create a guide list of things-to-do I think could inform my next steps toward a both/and life.
Make a big Sunday dinner
The women in my life make it a priority to start their week with a home-cooked meal on Sunday afternoons, despite whatever hardships or angst they might have about the upcoming week. As a child these dinners created in me a sense of normalcy and stability, and they provided me a time for heartfelt talks with the women I looked up to. This act represents to me a dedication to ensuring wellness in the form of a hearty meal, as well as the opportunity for reflection and learning my way around the kitchen.
Take care of a flower plant (and keep it alive for at least a month)
My grandmothers made sure to plant flowers every spring. Flowers decorated their yards and homes, and they took the time to learn what works best to preserve their gardens through the spring and summer seasons.
Their dedication and patience every year included trying new things and evolving their habits—which plants they would select, what soil they used, and the style of yard they wanted. They stuck to what they knew, but they were gracious enough to allow themselves to try new things, even if it didn’t work out the first or second time.
Clean my room/area every Saturday, no matter what (with blues music playing, of course)
One thing my grandmothers prided themselves on was a clean house and quality furniture. I vividly remember smelling Pine-Sol and hearing blues music and knowing it was time to get up and dust the furniture. When I was younger, this time interfered with my Saturday sleep-ins or cartoon binge-watching, but now it represents a time of reflection, reorganization, and taking inventory of the tangible (and intangible) things in life.
Sew a blanket by the end of my sophomore year
My great-grandmother was a seamstress, and I always remembered her hemming a pair of pants or taking in a dress. I also remember her sacrificing her time to teach me how to sew a pillow. When I was younger, I simply chalked up sewing to something that was just “cool.” In my radicalized early teenage years, I thought it was just a skill women needed to take care of their male partners. Now, I realize it’s a skill of self-sufficiency, independence, and boundless creativity.
Get a nice hairdo at least once a month
My other great-grandmother was a hairdresser and a wiz with the hot-comb and curling irons. She kept a consistent clientele of women. While her methods might have put her customers through a little discomfort, she was instrumental in women’s journeys to feeling good about themselves through loving their hair—while also getting in a good heart-to-heart conversation. She instilled in me the importance of “looking good and feeling good.”
The women in my family have defined my own growth as a woman through their actions, words, silence, habits, and priorities. I’ve built the foundation of my life upon their strength, compassion, femininity, pain, regret, accomplishments, complacency, and happiness. I hope I’m as influential to my daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters as they have been to me.