“The Rulebook for Women” is a fickle faux-text. Although this “book” is a conceptual based social construct, I like to think it is made up of ill-informed articles from naff women’s magazines and lifestyle blogs. The arguments are sometimes clear, often conflicting, and the central point is to say that women are doing something wrong, and if only they would fix it, their lives would be happier and healthier, with better – everything.
This same brand of thinking weaves its way into our personal lives. To a certain degree, women, like men, are expected to signpost developments with achievements. From losing body weight to making partner in a law firm. Individuals need personal success stories that we can humbly brag about when it is coerced out of us.
Few extracts from The Rulebook for Women encourage stillness. We are expected to always be rushing, to be busy with purpose, on to the next thing, the next hurdle, the next accomplishment. At best we raise a glass of rosé after the job is done, toasting our success with family and friends. But before we’ve even finished the bottle we are plotting the next, hoping for it to be bigger and better than the last. In short, The Rulebook for Women encourages us to always be working on raising the bar.
I am currently travelling slowly through Europe. I have taken six-months off work and have the unique luxury of time that allows me the freedom of slow travel. I am travelling to each new place with the main purpose to experience and enjoy. I do not rush through cities and countries frantically snapping pictures in every direction trying to capture the moment. Instead, I am trying to live in the moment. This is my personal challenge. It is challenging because it is not easy to move slowly, especially when everyone else around you seems to be moving very fast. Most folk I meet on the road seem surprised when I tell them my vague plans. They all seem to pass the comment, whoah you are travelling really slowly.
Yes. That is my point.
A “doll” house in Nazare, Portgual.
Like most people, my life has been signposted by the goals that I have achieved. When I set out to do something, I am pretty determined to work hard until I get it and can put a big tick next to it on my to-do list. When I was eleven I decided I wanted to learn to roller skate. Everyday after school I came home and practiced in the driveway for hours. Literally, hours. When I went to sleep my feet still felt like they were skating, gliding in my dreams.
This obsessive breed of determination followed me like a shadow through my life. I somehow managed to tick off everything I passionately wanted to achieve. In dance, art, and theatre, my life became measured by the strides that I took. I leapt from interest to interest with abandon. I threw myself in with abandon at practicing each one until I was content that I had mastered it.
I finished high school with top grades, got into my first choice course at my first choice University, studied Honours. Then I decided I wanted to do an Internship at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. You can do anything you want to; my parents’ voices always echo in my head.
People told me it is unlikely you will get it, that it will be a competitive process, that I’d be lucky even to get an interview. I worked as a waitress until I saved enough money, booked a one way ticket and go an interview the day after I left Australia. I got a four month placement. After that I came back home and wrote my Masters thesis. Then I got the dream job, I made it my own and created new challenges for myself to keep it interesting.
After some time lapsed I realised I didn’t know where to go next.
When I thought of travelling I didn’t have a clear idea in my head past having time. I feel like I don’t have a goal right now or a time limit to meet it in. I am not running mindlessly in the direction of my shadow. I am so deep in my travel, so ensconced in my experiences that I don’t even know what day it is.
Traditional horse and carts outside a palace in Seville, Spain.
This feels like the first chapter in my life where I feel perfectly content to take a step back and be grateful for where I am in the present, rather that looking ahead at where I will race next. I cannot think of another period of my life where I have done this. I am proud of my achievements. Looking at them from my perspective right now I am content to have them sit there for a while as I ponder life, how big the world is, and which country has the best gelato.
We rarely gift ourselves the time and space to step back and look at how far we have come. Take a weekend or an afternoon to do nothing. Sit with your thoughts. Learn to listen to the quiet and watch as the world goes by. Look at all that you have done and how far you have travelled. Be content with it. Practicing gratitude in this way will breed love in your life in ways that you may not have imagined. What were once goals to be ticked off morph into experiences you want to take and risks that excite you.
Life is meant to be lived and time is meant to be spent. Mix the two together and simply spend some time living.
Claire Dalgleish is an arts writer and curator based in Sydney. Claire frequently contributes to her blog art/writing/projects with artist profiles, essays, and reviews. Claire loves wine, travel, reading, and art. Beyonce is the soundtrack to her life.