“I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution,” Williams said in her Vogue cover interview last month, discussing her career departure from tennis. As I continue to read her interview, I find myself smiling and tearing up through the whole thing. As a young black woman, Serena Williams is my G.O.A.T.
Williams won her first major title in 1999 at the US Open at just 17 years old. Since then, she has become the record holder for most major titles won, with 39 titles, and 10 of those earned after the age of 30. She is an inspiration to many of us, especially women, because she showed the world how resilience, hard work, and confidence in yourself will lead you to success in all of your goals.
In her interview, Serena talks about how she plans on focusing on her family after tennis, and reflects on how marriage and pregnancy changed her career, and for the better in her opinion. “The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus grand slams. I had my chances after coming back from giving birth. I went from a C-section to a second pulmonary embolism to a grand slam final. I played while breastfeeding. I played through postpartum depression. But I didn’t get there. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I didn’t show up the way I should have or could have. But I showed up 23 times, and that’s fine. Actually it’s extraordinary,” (Vogue, 2022). She continues on and reveals she never thought about having kids at all early in her career. This part of her story makes me think about young-adult womanhood, and what a life of working or having kids could be like.
As a young woman going into post-graduate life in a couple months, I often think about what the next few years could look like. I have always said to friends and family that I don’t see myself having a life with kids and a husband, and that I want to focus on solely being successful. This is often met with the response of “You can’t really be sure what you want yet, you’re still young.” No one ever encourages me to work for years and become the best at what I am, and then have kids. Our culture pressures us into thinking that as women our end goals should involve children and family. But I want to take a page out of Serena Williams’ book. Her story emphasizes how she didn’t give up on her goals and her dreams ever. And when she did finally choose family and children, she didn’t let that shut down her career. If anything, instead of saying I’ll change my mind about kids, people should encourage me to look towards women like Serena Williams. It should be acceptable for me to say, “I want to choose my job over kids.”
However, as my role model, Williams did show me it’s possible to have both. Maybe I could have it all one day. She emphasizes having a hard work ethic, and how driving herself to be the best made everything possible for her. As she enters into her retirement, she talks about struggling to find balance, but is happy coming into that new chapter.
“Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution.”Serena Williams, Vogue August 2022
As I move on to my next chapter, I’ll look to Serena whenever I need motivation to keep going. I’ll remember how sacrifice and dedication gave her everything she ever wanted and how she made those record major titles happen for herself. And whether or not I have kids in three years or ten, I’ll know that strong women before me, just like me, made it possible.
To read the full Serena William’s Vogue Interview, click the link below: