The Seven Steps of Growth
1.You stop being afraid when your British Literature professor shouted “Don’t follow the doxa!” over and over again in class. He’s brilliant, and over the course of the year you become good friends, but you used to be terrified (he’s a large, loud man who looks a little bit like a combination of drunk Santa Claus and your high school drama teacher). You’re a little bit more ok with it now. You don’t flinch as much; especially when the spit flies out his mouth and he starts pounding his fists on the podium. You hear him. Don’t follow the goddamn doxa. The goddamn doxa. Stop following the doxa.
You don’t really have an “aha!” moment, as the kids these days call it. The spit keeps flying and the fists keep pounding. Stop doing what you’re told. Think for yourself goddamnit. Eventually, it occurs to you as you’re reading John Stuart Mill’s The Subjection of Women, and a variety of essays by Mary Wollenstonecraft and William Godwin. They’re addressing issues you’re wondering about now — and you’re a little bit baffled, because they wrote in the 19th century, and for some reason you’re just keeping up with this now. You suppose this is what people mean by getting over your comfort zone.
You read on.
Men speak on behalf of women, and they’re outraged about the fact that they have to. Women speak, and are ignored. It sounds oddly and unpleasantly familiar.
2.You meet a frat boy in overalls.
You’re not worried or scared, you’re just, again, baffled. You’re at a party with your sorority and the theme is “Wild West.” This kid wore overalls. And nothing else.
You’re not a fan. He’s trying to talk to you about something somewhat idiotic, like your top — which is plain and grey, because you were only going to stop in to meet your sorority’s social quota. It becomes abundantly clear that he’s talking to you to get into your pants. You roll your eyes and escape.
And then you start to wonder; why the hell is it a social requirement to talk to talk to dumb frat boys in overalls?
3.You quit your sorority. It was stupid and expensive anyways. And it forced you to follow the doxa.
4.Hamilton comes out and you realize that even from their extremely important positions as wives, daughters, and prostitutes, eighteenth and nineteenth century women managed to kick through the doxa and make an impact. What’s your excuse?
5.Donald Trump runs for president. You go from baffled to afraid. You watch the first presidential nominee debate with your best friend with a bottle of cider and the game goes from “drink whenever Donald Trump says something idiotic” to “drink to forget this man exists.” Drink to forget this man says that you and your immigrant family should go back to where you came from, never mind all the myriad of college degrees you all have, and how hard you’ve worked here and how you’ve made it your home. Forget the fact that if you were raped, if your body was violated and broken, the potential president of the country you’ve called home for most of your life would give him a slap on the wrist and judge that 20 minutes of action shouldn’t dictate the results of someone’s life. Forget how often he interrupts his female opponent. Forget that millions of people have already voted for this idiot. Forget that this idiot’s voice is louder than yours — and you’re an opera singer. Forget it, hun. Doesn’t matter anymore.
6.You decide to stay hopeful. What else is there to do? You tell stories. You teach children. You repeatedly remind them to dismantle the patriarchy — “Write about your feelings, guys. Anyone can read your resume and figure out what you’ve done. Now tell me why it’s important.” You teach teenage boys that there’s more to emotions than sadness, and that talking about things that excite them and make them genuinely happy is just as important as expressing everything else that goes on in their minds — joy, anger, depression, the whole damn lot.
You think about everything that could have gone wrong in your life, and how you’re still up and kicking, and you’re proud, goddammit. Even if you’re just starting to live, even if you’re really just coming into your own, starting to feel the tips of your fingers and realizing just how much you can do, and just how little at the same time. It’s not enough to just live; you have to move. You have to speak. You to sing, and run, and dance. You have to save the world, and you don’t know how it’ll happen yet, but it will, it will, it will —
7.You do something.