Another take on Dora


I have been thinking a bit more about it, and although everything I said in my previous post was indeed true, I think there is more to it. Though it's clear I'm not made of tough enough stuff to withstand the world Dora lived in, I'm not sure she wouldn't wilt in my world as well.

I'm usually the first person to start rolling my eyes whenever anyway waxes nostalgic about the "good old days," but there is something to having a simpler way of life. Sure, Dora worked her ass off, and lived in a weirdly gender stratified world, and had little for outside amusement, but she was also never alone. She probably never felt that she was letting down everyone she'd ever met by not having both a beautiful family and a glamorous career (or at least one or the other). Dora knew what was expected of her. While there is no way for me to know that she didn't suffer from crises of self-awareness and searches for a faith that never comes, there is no indication in the first year of her journal that she has.

While it is true that we are, in many ways, a nation of spoiled whiners compared to previous generations, and while it is true that, again compared to previous generations, we have it almost laughably easy (or at least the middle class and up do), it is also true that we live bizarrely complicated, fragmented existances. We are both blessed with choices and damned by them. And that is a little bit of what has me in such a state recently. I'm questioning everything: my "career," my relationship, my own self-image. While I still remain sure she was twice the woman I can ever hope to be, I'm also a bit jealous of Dora for not having those questions, or at least not having the time or inclination to dwell on them.


The things that determine your path are the things that make your heart sing. Start with things you like to do and everything else follows. Your life becomes its best when you are doing your best with life. And this is only possible if you like what you do. Don't compare yourself to anyone else and don't try to do what you think society wants. Happiness is a creation of your own -- it starts and ends with you. Have faith in yourself and go from there.

hey Grace! Think of this way too.... a woman of Dora's generation may also have entertained questions like the ones you're now asking (what should I do with my life? what kind of work should I do?), but either didn't or couldn't ask them. Which was probably rational given the social constraints on women at the time: a woman of that generation may have wanted to create a different life for herself, but if doing so was simply infeasible given the options available to her, then the most rational thing to do was probably to try to be as happy as she could about her circumstances rather than ask questions and try to change things.

For us of this generation, on the other hand, it is rational to ask questions as you are because our questions are more likely to lead to changes. The fact that you're asking questions and looking for ways to make your life more satisfying doesn't make you weak; it makes you a woman who has more options open to her than women of generations past. And I think Dora would be proud to see you question and struggle and pursue your dreams in ways that were probably never possible for her.

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September 2012

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