Don't Strive to Be a Lady
Don’t strive to be a lady. This is how Nora Ephron ended her ‘96 commencement speech at Wellesley College. Her words were
“Whatever you choose, however many roads you travel, I hope that you choose not to be a lady. I hope you will find some way to break the rules and make a little trouble out there. And I also hope that you will choose to make some of that trouble on behalf of women.”
If you don’t know who Nora Ephron was, she was a fantastic American writer, filmmaker, and feminist, famously known for her movies “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.”
For about a year and a half, I’ve been experiencing a pivotal point in my life. Setting goals with age expectations can be a real drag. You find yourself at that age, without the things you imagined, and you begin to doubt your journey. You start to question if you took all the necessary steps needed to achieve your goal. You wonder if there was anything that you could’ve done differently to change the outcome. You can easily get lost in this whirlwind, filled with self-doubt, hopelessness, and complacency with your current situation. You stop striving for more.
We are surrounded by so much technology, that we fall into this technology loop day after day. Our attention is always being directed towards our mobile devices, and we find ourselves escaping and comparing our reality, with this near utopian digital world. We strive for perfection, but with all the wrong intentions. The perfect picture. The ideal figure. The fine clothes.
When Nora Ephron gave her speech in 1996, she referenced her time at Wellesley in ’62. It was an era when as women, we didn’t have many options; instead we had social expectations to fulfill. Wellesley is part of the “seven sister colleges” which was initially, predominantly known for being an all-women prestigious institution for white women. However, in the ‘60’s, 500 African- American women graduated from the seven colleges. However, educated women were not expected to work. As Nora puts it
"Our education was a dress rehearsal for a life we never led.”
Back then, women were offered the opportunity to further their education but not the chance to use their knowledge to make a difference. They were expected just to get married, have children and forget about having a career. The Feminist movement advocated for women’s rights, but the voices of women of color blended into one united voice, even though the struggle was not the same.
It’s been about 55 years since Nora’s era, and about 25 years since her commencement speech in which she said:
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim. Because you don't have the alibi my class had—this is one of the great achievements and mixed blessings you inherit: Unlike us, you can't say nobody told you there were other options. Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead. Twenty-five years from now, you won't have as easy a time making excuses as my class did. You won't be able to blame the deans or the culture, or anyone else: you will have no one to blame but yourselves.”
Times have changed, but her message remains accurate. It’s 25 years later, and she is right, we have no excuses. Yes, there is still a glass ceiling for women, and yes there is still a rose-colored glass ceiling for minority women under that, but a heroine has no barriers that she cannot overcome. Don’t strive to be a lady, strive to be a champion. We can accomplish anything and everything we want, if we believe in ourselves. We can change our minds and not get penalized for it because life is meant to be lived like a rainbow, colorful and full of gold at the end. Each color representing a different journey, a different lesson learned, but one life nonetheless.
Nora reminds us that:
“It will be a little messy, but embrace the mess. It will be complicated but rejoice in the complications. It will not be anything like what you think it will be like, but surprises are good for you. And don't be frightened. Did I say it was hard? Yes, but let me say it again so that none of you can ever say the words, nobody said it was so hard. But it's also incredibly interesting. You are so lucky to have that life as an option.”
I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I have. There are no excuses, just options. Don’t conform to only taking one road your entire life because you fear there is no other option. Don’t submit to false happiness due to living the life you are expected to and not the life you want. Embrace the failures of your journey, celebrate the prosperous times and get ready for the new beginnings that are to come.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” - J.K. Rowling
Don’t strive to be a lady, strive to be a Champion. Set a goal and break through all the barriers, gracefully stepping over the glass ceiling. Make your own rules and fashionably stroll to the top in your Manolo, Prada or Louboutin heels. If you change your mind? Never let the thought of a goal being impossible to saturate your mind. Embrace the change and do it all over again… because you can.