By: Shannon Ralph
I drink my coffee at work from a Wonder Woman mug. In my office cubicle sits a little Wonder Woman action figure that smiles at me every morning as her boot-clad legs dangle from my shelf. It was a gift from a co-worker. The perfect gift for a Wonder Woman obsessed geek.
My geekiness started early. Even as a small child, I identified with Wonder Woman. As a knobby-kneed, buck-toothed little eight-year-old in 1980, my favorite cartoon on Saturday morning was Super Friends. Wonder Woman was the only female member of the Justice League of America and she held her own in that good ol’ boys club. At a time when very few women were piloting real airplanes, Wonder Woman was kicking ass in an invisible plane. I don’t even get me started on the freaking gnarly Lasso of Truth.
She was my hero.
For years, I have tried to emulate my hero. I have worked hard to become the modern equivalent of Wonder Woman. A woman in the good ol’ boys club. A woman who can do it all and be it all. I rarely wear a patriotic leotard or golden bustier. At least not to work. I have no lasso, and I’ve been known to get incredibly ill on airplanes. All that aside, however, I have tried my best to live up to my hero.
My generation was the first generation of women to benefit from the Women’s Liberation Movement. We were the first generation to grow up being told we can do and be anything we want. As a little girl in the 70s, I took that notion to heart. Like many of my counterparts, I took “do and be anything” to mean “do and be everything.” And I set my sights on having it all.
The magazines told us we could have it all. The television told us we could have it all. Even our parents told us we could have it all.
And then some.
A successful career that satisfies us both monetarily and intellectually. A loving, long-term marriage that begins in our twenties and lasts well into our Golden Years. Perfect children who excel in all they do and cause us to swell with pride on a daily basis. Extended family who look to us as the model of the consummate modern woman. Friends who, by their own awe-inspiring successes, make us better people.
These became the measuring sticks by which we girls of the 70s calculated our success.
So what’s wrong with having it all?
As I enter my forties, I’ve come to a rather shocking revelation. In all of this striving to have it all, I never stopped to ask myself if I wanted it all. Or if I needed it all. I’ve been in Wonder Woman mode for four decades. And frankly, it’s exhausting.
I am not Wonder Woman. And maybe I don’t want to be. I certainly don’t need to be.
Taking on more than we need simply because we can seems like a pretty ludicrous way to live. But I see woman doing it every day. We end up stuck in Wonder Woman mode with no obvious means of escape.
But here’s the shocking truth.
I do not have to be Wonder Woman. I do not have to have it all. I can take a step back. Take a breath. Take a moment.
I can live my perfectly imperfect life at my own pace.
I can make a conscious decision not to give into the powerful inclination to have it all. I can teach my eight-year-old daughter the power of the word no. The power of deciding for herself. The power of being Sophie Elizabeth instead of Diana of the Amazons.
At the end of the day, I look rather ridiculous in a golden bustier. So, rather than trying to be an Amazonian ideal, maybe I’ll just be me for a while.
Flawed, faulty, dysfunctional me.