For fans of the Finding Your Life Purpose series, here is a behind the scenes account of the care, feeding, and ultimate slaying of an impressive clan of personal dragons.
“Ambition? Julius Caesar had ambition and look what happened to him!”
Those inspiring words were beneath my grandmother’s high school yearbook photo as she prepared to meet the world upon her graduation.
I was sorting through my grandmother’s possessions after her death when I first read her sentiments, and my reaction then was the same as it is today…to laugh and shake my head. This woman with the barbed tongue and slightly bitter outlook on life was indeed my grandmother.
The same at 18 as she was at 68, I loved her for the unapologetic way she expressed her opinions. Born long before the age of political correctness, she spoke with refreshing candor. Despite the relative freedom of her tongue, however, for many women of her generation questions of ambition were indeed pointless. Her destiny was to be a wife and mother and keep the house white-glove clean. True self-determination was denied her.
Little did she know that a mere two generations later, barely the blink of a socio- evolutionary eye, a young woman would emerge from her lineage whose destiny was to become: Ta-da … a Superhero!
This is how it happened.
I was born nearly 40 years after my grandmother’s high school graduation, the eldest daughter of her eldest daughter. As far as feminine power was concerned, let’s just say I had my work cut out for me. My grandmother came from Austro-Hungarian ancestry, but she married into a family dominated by strong, passionate Greek males.
It is not my intention to indict persons of my own or any other heritage; many of us can trace ourselves back to the old country within three generations. However, traditional old country values often include strongly held beliefs about what constitutes proper behavior for a woman and what roles are appropriate for her to fill. My family culture held no exceptions to this rule.
I have an uncle who has not spoken to me in 13 years because I called him an asshole when he forbade a friend of mine, stranded 200 miles from his home due to a holiday blizzard, from joining my family for a movie at my uncle’s house. He was not “family.” It didn’t matter that I had known him since he was eight years old. It also didn’t matter that I was 28 years old when I characterized my uncle’s behavior so…accurately.
I am essentially dead to him because I was not respecting my elder. He is eight years older than me. Years later, when he met my husband for the first time, he refused to shake his hand. This is one example of endless grudge holding by the “powerful” men in my family.
So, maybe my grandmother had a point. Given the behavior of the men around her, ambition did appear to come at great cost. What chance did a woman have, really? (Yes, I know there have been many examples of feminine power since the dawn of time, but in terms of my personal history – and the personal history of the women before me – our day-to-day experience didn’t bear this out.)
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