A Life of One’s Own – Part Two

Two years ago I wrote a blog post about a book called A Life of One’s Own by Ilana Simons. When I first read the mix of Virginia Woolf wisdom and self-help psychology, I was going through a bad separation from an ex-boyfriend, and the advice I found in Simons’s book helped me both to cope and put the situation in perspective.

I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for when I picked it up again over spring break, but by page 3 it hit me – I am going through a bad breakup again – my breakup from the university! It might sound silly to some of you, but the thought of graduating in May has had me on an emotional roller coaster of tears and shouts of joy all semester, and I am sure there are many other seniors who feel the same way. Even though I feel prepared and I am excited to graduate, my life is about to completely change, and that is terrifying! How will I maintain an ongoing education when I don’t have deadlines to meet? Will I keep a blog once I am no longer graded for it? How can I stay as passionate a feminist as I am now after I leave my Women’s Studies circle of friends? Once again, Virginia Woolf is here to save the day….


“Find central work, then find backup work. Find an activity that you have some control in. Daily work that gives you no sense that creative freedom won’t cut it. Some work that bends to your imagination. Some work that shows new sides of yourself.”

As I have said before on this blog, a major problem with modern-day feminism is that it has become wrapped up in academia and not always remained accessible to communities. In a lot of cases I think academia has strengthened and supported community feminism, but I also think that it is a lot easier to be a feminist on campus than off. On campus I have my trusty professors and Women’s Studies friends; I have the blog to write for and read; I get to go to Feminist Philosophy class every week and talk about women’s issues with some very intelligent classmates – right now I am lucky.

As much as I would LOVE it, I probably won’t be writing for Feministing.com or Jezebel after I graduate, but Woolf reminded me that this doesn’t mean I can’t keep blogging! No matter what my future job is, I’m going to need that “back-up work” Woolf is talking about – and for anyone who is reading and wants to start blogging DO IT! Social networking sites have made it possible for all of us to spread our ideas to everyone we know, and we should take advantage of this fact, and BE THE MEDIA, especially since the media has been lacking so much lately.

Persistence can mean success. The difference between a breakthrough and an uneventful life might just be the difference between a lower and higher threshold for actual – painful, self-exposing – work.”

This is another important point – if there is one thing I have learned from writing on this blog, it is that the work that often seems too “exposing” to share is often the work that is best received. I was nervous to write about how I love Eminiem or the time I fought with my neighbors, but they were blogs that helped me understand myself better and spoke to my readers. I think that maintaining persistence in any line of work can be difficult, but especially so for feminists. Some days the world seems so bad that it feels like nothing will ever change, but we have to remember to keep our voices strong, keep standing up for what we believe in, and keep fighting!

Being independent means dealing with these competing ideas, making contact with these people who matter to you, but then stomaching the ambivalence in carving out your own choice – which is likely to be an opinion that no other head in the room completely hears or agrees with.

I realize that when I leave JMU it will be harder to find people who “agree” with me. Right now I am surrounded by feminists, and I am going to take a chance and say that I am sure that not all of my future bosses and co-workers will support queer rights or be interested in destigmatizing abortion. I am thankful that my time as a university feminist has taught me to be strong and well-versed in my beliefs, but Woolf is right – I will have to carve out my own choice and live with the consequences.

If you are a feminist senior, what are you reservations about leaving JMU? Are there any Women’s Studies alumni out there who have kept their feminist alive? What did you do?

2 thoughts on “A Life of One’s Own – Part Two

  1. I, too, absolutely LOVE Woolf, and Simons’s introspective take on her writing in application to our lives today is just awesome! I also think you’re right–feminism can be largely silo-ed in the ivory tower. I know that when I left academia (before I obviously came back) I found everyday ways to maintain my beliefs–asking why women were asked to bring a dish to a soiree but men weren’t, and probably my biggest feminist moment was when I bought my first car and told two dealerships that I refused to do business with them because they asked if my husband or dad had been helping me. GREAT POST!!


  2. Thanks! I have realized that this book has great advice for just about any situation you are going through. And good for you for standing up to the sexist car dealers!


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