My Childfree Odyssey
Today’s guest post comes from Erin Sayer. You can check out her website here. Thanks Erin for sharing your story. It’s good to remind ourselves how far women have come in their ability to choose their own path.
I’m 40. It’s been a bit hard the last couple years, growing into my accidental life. I love my life, but it is 1,000 times different than I imagined it would be.
As a child of the 80’s and young adult of the 90’s, I benefited from the previous generations’ women’s lib movement, and grew up believing ‘I am special, I can do anything!” I took women’s equality as an absolute fact, never thought too much about what women went through for hundreds of years, until relatively recently in America. I was proud to be a free female in the 21st century, Hear Me Roar!
And roar I did! I went to an all-women’s college, St. Mary’s College, in South Bend, IN. I learned from amazing feminist writers, befriended tons of lesbians and was on my way to becoming an artist. I indubitably ran with the “alternative” crowd, was super into grunge, and dated my fair share of men.
The World Was My Oyster
So far, this whole idea of women’s lib was a given, a birthright, a fact. I learned, after moving to Chicago into a 500 sq.ft. apartment that I was independent and unstoppable. I worked at the Chicago Public Art Group painting murals, and in the theater painting sets, and of course, as a cocktail waitress.
The world was my oyster. At the time I was dating a law student in Madison. We were together 3 years, of which the entire time he had leukemia, and eventually ended up passing away in 2008. I was his rock, his caretaker, and I was madly in love with him.
Except he drank too much, so I moved on to a man from Chicago, and we moved in together. I was thinking with both these men that we’d get married and settle down and have kids. I was looking forward to that life. But the second guy turned out to have quite a temper, so I again moved on.
I forgot to mention I am an avid traveler. I traveled all over the world, lived in Italy for a year and Ireland for a summer. I still travel, spending months at a time in locations other than my home in Minneapolis. In the last 3 years, I’ve lived in San Francisco, Bend, OR, Portland, and Seattle. Oh and Vermont! I love new adventure like nothing else. I hate repetitiveness. I hate stability.
A Free Spirit
I went to grad school, and again dated 2 more men who were not right for me. I was too much of a free spirit. I didn’t want the home life AT ALL. I wasn’t even thinking about kids in any way. At 27, I moved to Minneapolis for a high school art teaching gig. I was bored out of my mind, hated it. I dated a super stable guy for 5 years, who proposed. But I just didn’t feel like it was “right.” I could have easily fallen into the teacher/marriage/family routine if it weren’t for the nagging sensation that I was meant for something bigger, something less common, something amazing. And having a husband and kids seemed less and less appealing to me.
I quit teaching and became a full-time artist at 32. Broke up with the bf and opened a gallery. It was an awesome gallery in a cool part of town. I figured I’d meet someone in the art scene, and I have, but no one I would consider ‘right.’ I started to realize, Mr. Right was probably a fantasy, and no one was ever going to be right, because that’s not what I wanted.
Mr. Rights want stability and a comfy home. I never knew what I was doing day by day, I was floating from gig to gig, show to show. I achieved a lot of notoriety that has blossomed and become quite a good name in the art community. I started traveling extensively to show and paint murals in other cities. I helped manifest several large art initiatives in Minneapolis, and started a traveling artist ‘underground railroad’ of sorts, hosting fellow traveling artists at my home and gallery, which they have returned in kind. Since 2010, we have helped over 20 artists achieve their dreams of showing and working all over the US. We have an amazing network of artists.
The Long Battle Toward Equality
And all of a sudden, in the whirlwind of life, I turned 40. Just like that. And all you hear in the news and on the internet is how you’re more likely to get struck by lightning than get married after 40 (IF you’re a woman). And now, society’s lamest double standard has reared its ugly head. Now more than ever, I see ridiculous misogyny everywhere I look. Is it because the internet is a hell hole full of nasty Red Pill trolls? Is it because people online have no filter and spew their deepest misogynist beliefs anywhere they choose? Anyway all the rhetoric has made me tired and jaded towards men.
And I see clearly the long battle toward equality that woman kind has tread, and I am part of that battle in this modern age. Art is a very male-centered field. I have fought very hard for women artists over the years. I got a lot of blowback from male artists, who see my status in the art community as threatening. I have gotten a lot of negativity from young male artists, and I always fight back with positivity and grace. I probably am considered a hard-core feminist but I don’t see myself that way. I just want there to be equal opportunity for women and for men to stop being chauvinist jerks.
What? Children you ask? Yeah, I haven’t had one thought since I was 32 about having kids. I never would have been able to achieve what I have in art if I had started a family, or even married for that matter. It was a bit of a surprise to me at about 35, when I realized I would most likely be going it alone.
So here I am – a recognized traveling artist, a homeowner, a dog and cat having honest to goodness liberated woman, and I feel great. I wish the women who came before me could see the impact they had on so many of my generation’s women. We are truly the first generation to be dealing with globalization and the technological age. There is still much to do on our part, and the CF movement is a part of that history.
We are the first women to decidedly shun the shackles of motherhood in favor of achieving our goals. We are the first to reap so many benefits of the hard work of the women’s suffrage movement, and we are blazing our own paths through history.
Individually, we may be lost to history. But collectively, we have conquered mediocrity and are truly FREE to do our own thing. We are free to not accept poor behavior from men. We are free to choose our fields of employment thoughtfully and with gusto. We are free to travel and love and work our asses of for the betterment of society, and future generations. And I am grateful to be a part of that.
If you would like to submit your story, please contact me at nokidwoman (at) gmail (dot) com!
Image by Ishrona via Flickr Creative Commons.