Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Women Then and Now

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you make a conscious decision, work for and eventually achieve that goal? If you, like me are a woman born in the first quarter of the 20th century, I'd wager your answer would be a resounding, "Heck, No!"

The occupations open and acceptable to young women of my class and generation were service-oriented and circumscribed: one could be a teacher (probably not an administrator), a nurse (seldom a doctor), a secretary (hardly ever an executive) or a beautician who most likely didn't own a business any bigger than a shop in the back of her home.

As a Depression-era young woman I had no greater dream than escaping my parents' home---by whatever means. I didn't see myself or my future in terms of personal success and fulfillment. I only hoped to live a bit better than I had when I was growing up. I was never forward-thinking in terms of my own development. I just wanted to survive.

Despite being significantly overweight and under-educated I married thanks to propinquity and circumstance. During that marriage and due to necessity, I went to work in a menial position for a major corporation. After the war, political and social developments allowed me to rise to a point in my career I'd never imagined. But I worked very hard---my family depended on me. I retired successful and respected. However, to this day it's actually, still in my mind at least, all about surviving.

Flash forward to 2008. My granddaughter Sarah has just returned from a medical mission to the Philippines. She assisted in and performed over 600 surgical procedures in 12 very long days. She went on this mission in addition to working full-time at the Manhattan Hospital for Special Surgery AND attending school full time.

Sarah is 27 years old and has traveled throughout the world---at her own expense. She currently lives a few blocks from Central Park in NYC and has a well-educated and successful "significant other"---but feels no pressure to make it permanent as she says she isn't sure what she wants to do next.

Oh, what a difference! Sarah works just as hard (or even harder) than I did at her age, but she isn't doing it to simply to survive. She's trying to make a difference in the world---because believes she can. She isn't worried about where her next meal is coming from or whether she should marry to ensure her future. She's secure. Her parents and I will take care of any dire emergency. Sarah doesn't need to hook up with a partner she doesn't feel completely committed to. She can devote herself to trying to make the world a better place and herself a better person.

Lucky her. I so very much want to believe I would have done the same...but at least I can help her make these good things happen now...and believe I've done the very best I could with what I've been given.


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