Double Bind

I love this book.

I LOVE THIS BOOK! This is without a doubt the book I cannot shut up about right now. Robin Romm does us real right with her thoughtfully curated collection of essays by female writers. She curates broadly both in demographics and in vocational representation. The collection is inclusive and damn-near holistic.

So ambition, huh? That’s a lot to unpack. Like, what IS it? Where does it come from? Are you born with it or is ambition cultivated through childhood nurturing or through strife? Must you claim your ambition to be ambitious?

Good questions. You should read this book. I cannot tell you what to think of it. Only that if you are a woman and do stuff with your life and read books then you should read this one so that we can have a greater exchange of ideas in the world. We all benefit from the sharing and you may also learn something about what your ambition is or what your ambition isn’t along the way.

On the subject of professionalism and all things #girlboss, areas of ambition I have been heavily subscribed to throughout my life, I recently came to find a lot of value in disassociating my self-worth from my career and am now seeking deeper fulfillment from a variety of areas in my life. 'If you insist on being ambitious' the world says, 'let it be in the realm of professional pursuits, where models for "success" traditionally live.' While that is one valid platform, it isn't inclusive of the myriad of unique human experiences tied to motherhood or sisterhood or relationships or personal growth or migration, all of which are certainly ambitious endeavors.

Double Bind features stories from women who work, women who are mothers, women who work and who are mothers, women who write, women who don't write, and women who are everything in between. The essays that resonated for me are the immigrant stories. Because well, I am an immigrant. I don’t sound like an immigrant, or look like how you might expect an immigrant to look in today's media slogue, but I am. And with multiple refugee crises and a travel ban and Brexit and an unfathomable amount of xenophobia, I can’t claim to share their stories. I do however claim a shared sense of hope and dreams and ambitions that exist within the immigrant experience. The very act of immigration is ambitious, to say nothing of what it is like to exist in a place that might be wholly confused by your language and traditions. Furthermore, continuing to speak your language and observe your traditions all the while being simultaneously transformed by a new place is also ambitious. That is something immigrants share. You see, when you’re an immigrant it means that you have an identity tied to where you’re from and one tied to where you are and it's constantly being renegotiated inside of you. It’s beautiful because having multiple cultural identities means we have a larger platform to exercise our ambition on. Pretty rad. Being an immigrant is rad.

Immigration aside (though we'll come back to that later, in a future essay) Double Bind helped me affirm what I've sought and fought for in recent years to be true: that women can be soft and strong, mothers and professionals. Essentially that women can choose to be any and all rather than either or one and nowhere along the line must their ambition temper. (Google 'Fourth Wave Feminism' for more on this. Also watch Emma Mcilroy's TEDxPortland talk - it is my absolute favorite). Ambition no longer belongs solely to career women, but is a trait applied to whatever one chooses to dedicate themselves to. I’m reminded of something my ballet mistress Miss Patti once said to our class some 15 years ago… “The way you do something is the way you do everything.” Girl, oh girl has that been burned into my brain. I think about it a lot. I’m not convinced it always applies but I choose to believe it because it serves as a mantra on days when I fear my ambition might be waning or misplaced  It isn't, but I appreciate Miss Patti still providing me with this reality check well past the days of sequined leotards.

So thank you Robin Romm for having the tenacity to write Double Bind. You have helped me develop a more finely tuned notion of where and how my ambition can coexist with the rest of my life. 

PS - Stay tuned for essays on Immigration and on Ambition. There is more (a lot more) to reveal on both these subjects. And if you identify as an immigrant, in American or abroad (or maybe you prefer the term expat?) I'd like to speak with you. 

Grace Moen