How the Women in My Life Showed Me That Boundaries are Optional

By Merle Dandridge

What do I think about walls? How do these invisible lines between us make me feel? That boundaries are optional. If I’ve learned one thing from my mother, my teachers, my greatest female inspirations, it’s that Boundaries Are Optional. Authenticity, living your truth, kindness — these are necessary virtues.

Image courtesy of Merle Dandridge

My mother was born of two countries at war with one another. Her Korean accent was an affront to the Japanese language. Her delicate features leaning toward the Japanese side made life in Korea a constant battle as soon as she walked in a room. She was labeled before she opened her mouth. How could they have known she’d survive two wars, the death of two out of six children, make her way to the U.S. and put herself through nursing school without fully knowing the English language?

This resonates with me because I knew similar borders and labels growing up. The way I looked informed an expectation of who I was before I even opened my mouth. And as I look around this year and the rapidly changing political climate, I find these experiences and lessons I’ve learned to be the most powerful tools life has given me: To look deeper before I decide, to expect the mountain top when there seems no path in the valley, to never assume. Put in the work to find understanding and the real truth in the other person’s heart.

As women, we have super powers. We are sisters. We are healers. We are mothers. We are goddess warriors. So, search carefully for opportunities to learn from those around you, be a constant student. Then, be at the ready when you feel your purpose line up with the hard work you’ve put in. God has placed within each of us an immeasurable, unique gift. It is our duty to live that out to the full AND to encourage one another with gusto. This is the time when every woman’s voice and discerning spirit is most needed. So, when it comes down to “us and them”, remember that we are more alike than not. That we all want what is best for people, for our children, for humanity. Boundaries Are Optional. So go be great!

About Merle Dandridge:

Having made an indelible mark on stage, Merle Dandridge continues to shine on the small screen starring in the Oprah Winfrey/Lionsgate produced television show “Greenleaf” which just started its second season. She has recurred on a number of television series including F/X’s “Sons of Anarchy”, CW’s “Starcrossed” and NBC’s “The Night Shift”.

Dandridge began her acting career with leading roles on Broadway in “Spamalot” (Lady of the Lake), “Rent” (Joanne), “Aida” (Aida), “Tarzan” (Kala) and “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Soul Girl, Disciple). She has toured the U.S. and Europe 6 times, been featured in several regional theatre productions including multiple stints at The Geffen Playhouse and Pasadena Playhouse.

She has voiced several videogame characters and worked alongside Neil Druckmann in UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END and THE LAST OF US. She has also voiced characters in DOTA 2, HALF-LIFE 2 and the Award-winning independent video game EVERYBODY’S GONE TO THE RAPTURE.

Dandridge was born in Japan, raised in Nebraska and schooled in Chicago at Roosevelt University. She now resides in Los Angeles.