Refuse to Sell Your Aspirations Short

I’m feeling a tug on my undergrad roots today with the passing of Adrienne Rich (1929-2012). I remember hearing her when I was in college and being so fired up to take on the world. It can be kind of tricky to promote the feminist movement out here in the ‘burbs, but I’m doing my best to live up to the call. When I read her work as a student and then heard her speak, I had no idea I’d become a runner, much less an evangelist for women’s sport, but I was going over some of her work this morning, and I found this, which sent some serious chills through me.

Responsibility to yourself means that you don’t fall for shallow and easy solutions–predigested books and ideas…marrying early as an escape from real decisions, getting pregnant as an evasion of already existing problems. It means that you refuse to sell your talents and aspirations short…and this, in turn, means resisting the forces in society which say that women should be nice, play safe, have low professional expectations, drown in love and forget about work, live through others, and stay in the places assigned to us. It means that we insist on a life of meaningful work, insist that work be as meaningful as love and friendship in our lives. It means, therefore, the courage to be “different”…The difference between a life lived actively, and a life of passive drifting and dispersal of energies, is an immense difference. Once we begin to feel committed to our lives, responsible to ourselves, we can never again be satisfied with the old, passive way. [emphasis added]

Rich was a revolution, as hard core as feminism gets, and I don’t agree with everything she wrote, but I relish the physicality of what she believed, the acknowledgment that the body is a woman’s own territory to travel, not a map she reads that’s been drafted by someone else. I think that every day, though rarely in those abstract, cerebral terms. I think it in the pain of cranking out hard laps on the track and in the muscles that flex in my legs when I see myself in the mirror. I made that map.

My map has many landmarks, from childhood to childbirth. I was raised a ballet dancer. I became a distance runner. And I’m raising a boy so physical that I know he’s sketching his territory as assertively as I’ve written mine. I’ve written two articles in the past month or so that reflect this. Thanks to my editors Emilie and Allessia for their fine work with the text and photos of me in action.

I invite you to visit Sparrow Magazine’s third issue and my piece on taking perspective with a boy in motion.

And I have a post on the Lululemon blog today that offers ballet-inspired injury prevention exercises for runners.

The articles seem vastly different, but trust me, they’re not all that far apart. Both come from my map, my refusal to sell my aspirations short, whether they’re the drive to run strong, to design your own life, or to be an active, engaged mother. What are your maps, the ways you’ve written your body’s territory?