If there’s one thing all of my friends should know about me, it’s that I love animals. I grew up being obsessed with stuffed animals and The Wild Thornberrys television series. As I got older, I began to think about animals more critically, and even began to apply these thoughts to the world around me. I think of my tight-knit, all-female family as a matriarchal elephant herd. We’re fiercely protective, defensive, and have a tendency to remember everything (sometimes much to my dismay). Men come and go as they may, but at the end of the day the power of my family is that it is comprised of strong, independent women. I never lived in just a Year of Women; it’s been a lifetime of women.
I realized growing up that my family was quite different from most of the ones I met. Despite what national statistics made me believe, all of my friends until college grew up in two-parent, married households. My classmates never understood why a dad never came to my sports games. They thought it was “strange” that my mom worked so much. Even today, I have people asking me if I feel like I “missed out” from not having a father figure in the house, or if I somehow felt more “complete” knowing I was born from a sperm donor. First off, I need to say, never ask someone that question. That’s like asking an only child if they have social skills because they don’t have any siblings. There was never any void I had to fill in my life. My single mother gave me everything any child could ever want or need, and she did so without ever complaining. Quite frankly, she filled the stereotypical roles of both mother and father in my life.
I only have one close friend who is raised by a single mother. We are, undoubtedly in my mind, the most independent people I know. I usually know exactly what I want, in everything from academics to my social life. I stand up for myself. I’m typically not passive in my everyday life. I have no problem making decisions. I feel very much in control of my own life. My mother raised me with the goal of being self-sufficient. And according to my beliefs, she succeeded with flying colors. My mother gave me the freedom and independence to be able to make my own decisions. During my freshman year, I couldn’t understand why students struggled with picking out their own classes, needing to call their parents to make any decision. Quite frankly, I was surprised they didn’t call to pick a dining hall to eat at.
Along with being self-sufficient, my mother taught me that reliance on your self is the most important quality you can have. You cannot control the cruel or unkind things people say or do to you, you can only respond how you react to them. My mother taught me that while you should try to rely on friends, you need to rely on yourself first. Sometimes I lose sight of that at Carleton. Perhaps most of all, my mom taught me that reliance on a man should never be a necessity.
In so many conversations I hear on campus, and so many conversations I have, people our age talk about significant others like crazy. It’s fun. It’s interesting. And it’s also overrated. None of my friends at home, or those who graduated, talk about their significant others to the same extent as Carls. Quite frankly, I’d so much rather hear about what my friend is reading or watching on television than the recent book or movie their significant other is reading or watching. I’d want to hear what they’re applying to, not the internship their partner just got. I’d rather hear about my friend than the person they’re dating. It’s almost as if some people are reliant on their significant other, in most cases I mean a man, to somehow start their conversations, to somehow be the more interesting person in their relationship. To be the smarter, better person that somehow completes them. When people talk about who they date too much, it makes me think that they’re unable to care for themselves and rely on themselves; they don’t think of themselves as interesting enough or perhaps aren’t confident enough to talk about their own lives. They rely on someone else to fill some gap.
Being raised in an-all female family taught me that there is no gap you need a significant other to fill, whether that be someone you’re dating or a friend. There is no man needed to fill that gap. I think being in a relationship is wonderful and exciting, but the person you’re with is never completing you. You are not reliant on them for your own happiness. Only you can really make yourself happy. Above all else, my all-female, strong, empowered family taught me that happiness is your own creation.