Last month, I was visiting my friend at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she goes to school. Before I went, my mom texted her, without my knowledge, telling her to introduce me to lots of boys there.
At the time, I was annoyed. In fact, I still am. I'm no stranger to events like this or comments from older family members or family friends. Before I went to college, I was privy to comments such as "College is going to be such a great opportunity for you to meet cute boys!" On breaks from school, I fielded questions such as "Do you have a boyfriend yet?" or "Have you met any nice guys at college?"
These questions always came before any others, such as questions about grades, or friendships, or what I had gotten involved in on campus. Sometimes it felt as though I wasn't sent to college in the pursuit of higher education and career preparation but in order to find a suitable husband.
What is it with this idea that as young ladies we must be in pursuit of a man, of a relationship, of marriage? Why is that still what defines us as women, more often than success? Why does it seem like we may only truly be successful after we have scored a suitor, and even then, as contradictory as it is, we must not be MORE successful than our spouse, in order to protect their fragile masculinity?
I have always believed that the pursuit of personal success and the pursuit of relationships cannot peacefully coexist. This is why I have never had a boyfriend, or anything close to one, and I'm not ashamed of that. I've been busy working, discovering my passion, taking on leadership positions, and working my booty off for success in the future.
It can be easy to coast along in college, find a boyfriend near the beginning (or even in high school!), date on and off, or maybe even consistently through college, and get married after graduation. The problem with this method is we usually wind up with the same gender roles and the same antiquated cycle we've experienced since the beginning of time- because too many women will invest more time into a relationship than success in their degree, or after college, in their field, leaving men with the power in the relationship.
And, since many women often don't fully explore their options and date a wide variety of men, they believe that they are happy in their first or second relationship, and will stick with it, and then realize years down the line that they made the wrong decision. Maybe the fire fades completely, or their husband is unfaithful, or the couple realizes after the honeymoon phase is over that they have no common interests whatsoever. Whatever the case may be, those women who pursued a relationship so fiercely in college can be left with little sense of self, little personal success, and little ability to be alone at their age!
This can leave women either divorced and searching for themselves and their own success which can now define them instead of their husbands, or this can leave women too afraid of being alone to get a divorce, so they stay in a marriage where they are unhappy. The latter is much worse, in my opinion, because unfortunately, our society puts such an emphasis on marriage that women are often defined by whether or not they are married.
This is why the pursuit of success is a much more important journey to take not just in college, but in life. Through the pursuit of success, women are able to find themselves, what they are passionate about, and they are able to harness their passions to make themselves unique and use those passions in a career to become earth-shatteringly successful. This is why I am proud to say that I have pursued nothing but success so far in life, because I am still young, and I have plenty of time to find a spouse in the distant future. It is not the goal.
Success is the goal. Happiness is the goal. When the time is right, and I'm surrounded by the right kind of like-minded individuals (hate to say it, but it probably won't be here in Alabama,) I may find someone along the way to spend my life with. Or I might not. But that's okay because I am not defined by my relationship status. I am defined by my success.