My first post sets it up pretty well, so I figured I’d give it a page of its own rather than making people dig through posts:
The Self-Styled Life: a particular configuration of your professional, personal and physical life reflective of your passions, ambitions, imagination, desires and tastes. Put simply, Life on your own terms, conforming (or not) to traditional structures as you see fit. [This is a working definition…]
The term self-styled does not always have positive connotations: a self-styled “expert” in something is usually a person who just fancies himself so, but who doesn’t actually have the credentials to be called a proper expert. But when we’re talking life, you have the qualifications to create your own simply because you are here. No credentials needed beyond that one!
I think of something that is “styled” as something that was actively and attentively curated to be a collection of complementary elements that form a cohesive whole. I like to go from this definition of style: “a quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one’s actions and taste.” There’s no right or wrong to a self-styled life. Who’s to judge it? It’s yours.
I’ve been meditating on this concept as a result of a recurring theme I have noticed among my friends. We are feeling that with the freedom that the women’s liberation movement has given us (and don’t get me wrong, we are very grateful for this), there is an expectation that we pursue successful careers (and maybe build a family in the off-time). This is what we’resupposed to want. Often, when I finally blurt out in confidence that I’m not finding this model suitable and maybe I just want to stay home and bake, my friend totally gets what I’m talking about, because she’s had similar taboo thoughts.
But under the pressure of these expectations, we went to college and some of us even went for more schooling (maybe because we didn’t know what else to do). We are highly educated. We are getting married, setting up a dual-income household. And there is no time to consider what we’re doing. Saddled with student loan debt and the need for two incomes, we’refloundering about in the professional world, trying to find something tolerable (or dare we dream, wonderful) to make money with the hope that at least we’ll get a decent maternity leave, or maybe even have saved enough to stay home for a few years. And that’s the dream. A few measly years before the kids are off to school and we’re back to work so we can pay for their college education.
When I need a break from this pressure, I dream of the self-styled life. I am highly and happily educated and I do have passions that extend beyond the home, that form some fuzzy vision of “professional” success. But I’m beginning to doubt that the generally accepted 9-5 structure is for me. I’m starting to dream up my own model. To me, the perfect picture is this: I am essentially a stay at home wife and eventually, maybe, mother. I imagine taking courses like my grandmother took, to learn skills in homemaking. I want to create thatperfect home—clean and organized, beautifully decorated with furniture I’ve redone myself. Because I have time to refinish furniture. But I do other things too, either part-time or from home. With any luck, it’s writing. Or maybe a cleaning business, yoga instructor, or refinishing furniture and selling it on Etsy or Ebay. I build a career that is varied, flexible and reflective of who I am, and my value in our life is measured not just on my income but also the home I create. I want a successful life, not just a successful career.
I think our society is going through a readjustment. We’ve explored the extremes for women—on the one hand, being kept uneducated and forced into essential servitude in the home, and on the other hand, being well-educated and sent out into the world with every expectation of becoming professionally indistinguishable from men. Now, some of us are looking for balance, something in the middle. We didn’t just want to get married out of high school, yet our greatest dreams in life are not measured in rungs on the career ladder. Can we make something else?