When I was a child, I wasn’t aware of what it meant to grow up.
I was a typical girl, with my hand-me-down yellow roller skates and my disgustingly pink bedroom.
My big sister and I made our own magazine, and taped a radio show on an old Casio cassette tape. We lived like most kids in the 90s—before the boom of technology offered an alternative to climbing trees and building imaginary rafts for fun. Our brothers fought each other with wooden swords while we made dinner in our wooden house on a plastic stove.
I believe I became a woman at the age of 21.
There is no set definition as to what it means to “become a woman.” For me, it was simply the realisation that I was in control of myself. No one else, no man or woman, could define me better than I could.
I did not grow up when I got my period, when I first kissed a boy, or when I left home; for me growing up was when I took control of my own choices and began to own the strength I held as a young woman. I etched out a watertight path, twisting and turning occasionally, but always clear of one thing: I did not need anybody else.
Like the moment in many great novellas before inspiration hits, my plan crumbled pretty quickly. Success was something I believed I could only do alone.
I thought that being in a relationship would be claustrophobic, though me and my friends simultaneously discussed our future partners on the regular. What came out of our mouths and what we felt in our hearts were disconnected in some way.
It was as if admitting that we might actually want to be in partnership with a man destroyed any notion that we were independent women who did not need anybody’s help to achieve our dreams.
And again, when it came to female relationships, I saw this fear materialise among women, as if every other woman was an opponent, a force standing in the way of success. As young women in our 20s, many of us had been fed the message that we could only climb to great heights solo.
But the thing about only wanting to do things alone is that you can only go so far. While we can achieve whatever we set our minds to and complete that task on our own, letting others support and nourish us on our journey is not a weakness.
Being in a healthy relationship with a man (or a woman) should not stop us from being able to do all of those things and achieve all of our dreams. In my experience, it can actually enable us to achieve more.
If you’re in a relationship that blocks you from achieving the dreams you have for yourself, you’re probably in the wrong relationship—whether that be with a partner or a friend. Sharing your journey with others, however, can lift you to new heights and does not mean you have to offer up all of your independence.
As women, we are in a time of amazing transition in society. Yet alongside these messages of positivity and empowerment, we can find ourselves feeling guilty or confused when we make decisions that collide with who we are told to be.
The truth is as simple as this: do whatever feels right to you and do not let anybody tell you what strength looks like.
I have friends who stand strong in their dreams of being a mother, friends who see strength as being a CEO, and others who are content with traveling far and wide and figuring it out along the way.
Being independent does not mean we have to travel this road alone.
We have long been tied to old paradigms defining women in every way; now is a time to define our own strength and freedom, to stand alongside those we love and etch out our paths together, while we cheer each other on.
Author: Rebecca Tyers
Image: JD Mason / Unsplash
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Nicole Cameron