Apparently I am a strong person. At least that is what people keep trying to tell me, however, I am not inclined to agree.
This isn’t going to be some article where I “humble brag” about amazing things I do that few others can master. No, I want this to be an article where I talk about doing ordinary everyday things that for some reason, seem to be out of the realm of possibility for a young single female. The simplest of tasks that many feel is out of the scope of their comprehension or abilities simply because of the genitalia that lies between our legs. Or being able to get back up and trudge forward every single time life throws a curveball. These aren’t superhuman feats of strength. It is merely the ability to stand eye-to-eye with the things that scare or intimidate you and meet the challenge head on, along with a few critical thinking skills.
I first want to address the subject of women being able to function independently and the level of surprise that seems to bring to a lot of people. In the south in particular, we still have the pre-conceived notion that women are weak, wounded little birds, who need to be nurtured, cared for, tended to, thought for and fed every 30 minutes. (Actually, that doesn’t sound half bad!) But in reality, we have just as much ability to get things done as our male counterparts, we are just accustomed to asking someone to do it for us without even trying. For example, I am in the process of moving half my life to Nashville. I will be splitting my time between there and the Tri-Cities and like with any move, it’s never simple. But my mother, bless her heart who has never been on her own without my father, is astounded that I am capable of handling these difficulties.
“How are you going to move everything, are you going to hire movers?”
“Only to unload the truck when we arrive in Franklin.”
“What about here?”
“I have friends who are going to help load everything into a U-Haul then I’m driving it down.”
“You can’t drive a U-Haul.”
“Because it’s big and you can’t drive a truck that big on the interstate. Your daddy needs to drive it.”
Sigh. I love my parents but my mother still thinks in her mind that my damn-near 70-year-old daddy who has suffered from hearing loss since his teens and refuses to wear glasses is somehow better equipped to drive a 20’ box truck than myself, simply because he is a man. I also had an unfortunate incident with my car while travelling, so when I chose my rental, I opted for a large pickup truck just in case I might need it for the move. Across the board, there has been an unprecedented level of astonishment that I have been able to drive it. Listen, if these skinny little redneck boys who dip Skoal and chug Mountain Dew and can barely see over the steering wheel can navigate a diesel powered environmental nightmare from the time they get their license, I know I can. And I’m not an idiot. I know my limitations, and I do not possess the physical strength to do a lot of this on my own. But I have the mental capacity to set aside money and schedule movers as well as being humble enough to ask for help when I need it. Easy! This isn’t rocket science!
I think the shock factor actually comes from a woman being able to abandon what they know and start their life over again alone in unfamiliar territory. For some reason people don’t bat an eye when a single man moves for a career opportunity, but it’s this scary, daunting, impossible task for a woman. It’s not. Anyone moving on their own faces the same obstacles and we’re all capable of figuring them out, especially in an age where resources are so readily available to us. And it’s a shame that I have to worry any more than a man about my safety in a new place. “You’re in a big city, you need to get a gun or mace,” one friend worriedly informed me. Uh, news flash- there are monsters everywhere you go, even here in our quaint and happy little Appalachian towns. Just google sex offenders around your home or read the local papers and you will be sadly reminded of that fact. As a woman, I do have to stay more aware than men of my surroundings and not put myself in a situation that could be dangerous, but I have been doing that my whole life.
In times of extreme distress in my life, I have repeatedly been told, “you’re strong. You will get through this.” Sometimes it is by the people who love and care about me to try to pull me out of the darkness and sometimes it’s been used by people who are hurting me a great deal to justify their bad behavior. Either way, it is not a sentiment that I particularly welcome. When someone is crapping all over me, the last thing I want to hear is how it’s somehow ok because I will be able to handle it and move on eventually. Or when I suffer a loss, whether it be a job or a loved one or a pet or ANYTHING, I don’t need to be comforted with the reminder that I am capable of eventually pushing through the hard times and doing better. In those regards, I am SICK of being strong, and wish for once, someone would give me the white glove treatment. But it never happens that way for me, and in the end I will be better for it.
Look, I am not “strong.” The fact is, you don’t know what you’re capable of when you’re left with no other choice. That’s how I look at it when bad things happen-I don’t have another choice. I can either lay down and let this ruin me or I fix it, and no sane normal person is going to choose to lay down and die. Man or woman, you are capable of pretty much anything, you just have to get past the self-doubt and fears and know your limitations. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Whether it’s a DIY project around the house or a struggle with addictions, the same processes apply. Identify and face your fear, stop doubting yourself, acknowledge your personal limits and ask for help from people around you when you’re stuck. This mindset can open up a whole new world. Around 99% of the boundaries in our lives exist solely in our head, and if you can conquer that, you can do anything.