Having The Courage To Gracefully Walk Into Our Destiny
My desire to travel started back in 2006. A semester studying abroad in Madrid, Spain opened my eyes to the world outside the four-block radius of my Bronx, NY neighborhood. It was the best opportunity the universe had blessed me with. I became aware of different types of food, languages, traditions, fashions, politics, education and societal cues. My family traditions alongside being a U.S. Citizen brought about preconceived notions towards people in other parts of the world. This acknowledgement forced me to travel more to focus on learning about other cultures rather than just sitting on a beach. During my trips, I began talking to the locals, going off the road to the restaurants owned by someone’s grandmother and learning about what it really felt like to live in these places, especially from the perspective of the women. It’s simple to understand my interests in issues related to women because I am one. From a very early age, I’ve always been aware that although not perfect, the opportunities and freedoms I am afforded here in the States are very different than the women I have met along the way.
But there is a constant thread that many of us share and that is transitioning into a young woman and learning to make your OWN mark in life. Looking back, many of my most interesting conversations during my travels focused on understanding how woman of this generation struggle with the traditions of their families (parents). Across the world, choices like occupation and household size (marriage, kids) are often predetermined by your elders or the traditions within your community and culture.
My first week in 2016 was spent in Indonesia. This trip was an emotional transformation for me. Like many things in my life, I had no expectations for this trip; I just knew I wanted to go. I saw it as a means to recharge and disconnect from my fast paced NYC life. During my last day on this trip, I learned a very profound lesson that came from an unexpected person: the esthetician at the Cocoon Medical Spa in Kuta, Indonesia, one of the most beautiful spa I’ve ever been to.
The conversation started with the typical small talk,"where are you from?" "And what do you do?" Our conversation shifted when we began to speak about careers, education and freedom. I asked her a simple question that led down an interesting path. My question was based on an assumption my traveling buddy made about education and the family dynamic in Indonesia. So I asked: “I heard you have to pay for education from kindergarten all the way through high school. Is this true?” Now, paying for education is not a new concept as we do it here in the U.S. But, in this case, there are very little options as Indonesia has no public schools. The esthetician answered with a simple, “Yes this is true.” She continued to inform me that not many people make it through high school let alone college, mainly because of the cost -- a struggle that many people share and their decision to begin work and start a family.
“I am in college now. I am studying to be a nurse. It takes about 5 years to finish and it’s very hard. Many of the women in my family become nurses so this is something that I was raised to become. It’s hard because of the work, of course, but mainly because there is not many choices for me. Being a nurse is not what I wanted to be but this is what I am going to do.”
This brief conversation automatically made me think about the questions that come to mind as I get wiser, a.k.a. older:
What kind of woman do I want to be? How does my ability to make my own choices affect me as a woman?
The conversation was met with much sympathy, of course, but I understood that cultural norms are a major factor in how we develop and these factors vary around the world. I could have simply responded with “just do something else, don’t be a nurse” but the way in which we live our lives, the way in which we find our “fearlessness” is shaped by different factors and it’s not always easy to obtain our ideal life. Working at the spa for her was a means to pay for her educational expenses and secretly become a part of an industry should found great interests in, beauty.
Many of us have heard the saying “we must do what we have to do in order to do what we want to do.” There is much bravery and faith in recognizing this balance and believing that the things you dream of will eventually come true. My hopes for the esthetician I met in Indonesia and for many women (including myself) is to not stop pursing the life you want to lead. The openness in which she expressed her desires and current life situation tells me that there is much opportunity for her to move on to a path of her very own. I believe this because she is aware of what she wants which is the first step in evolving in to the best version of yourself.
I left her more compassionate and appreciative and found some inspiration for this piece, naturally. It made me think about the type of woman I want to be versus the type of things I want to have (which I have been thinking about for a few years now). The kind of woman that I and many women I know want to be, doesn’t settle for the life society or cultural norms have set out for us but having the courage to gracefully walk in to our destiny.