When I was growing up, I always admired the fact that my mom worked full-time and that she was independent, yet so dedicated to our family. When I asked her about other people who were stay-at-home-moms I remember her telling me, "I always wish that I had wanted that," almost as if she didn't have a choice in her career-driven mentality.
So it always felt natural, like my mom, for me to strive for success. I even went so far as to promise myself that I would "never follow a guy anywhere." And I know that I wasn't alone. Over the years, I have heard countless women reflecting on their own goals and dreams, and even some recounting past experiences, all while explicitly defining what they viewed as success - moving to a new city alone for a job they got themselves - and what they viewed as a failure and a relapse into patriarchal social norms - following some guy.
But here's the thing: my partner is not just "some guy." He is my best friend, and we have supported each other in every aspect of our lives. I'd mention the number of years that we've been together, but that doesn't even really matter! It all boils down to one simple truth: I want him with me when I give thanks every morning for being alive.
Yet no matter how much I want to keep him close by while I face the most uncertain and challenging years of my mid-twenties, I've still had to deal with an incredible amount of shame - both self-induced and socially enforced.
I am a feminist. I am independent. I believe that our world needs more courageous female leaders and more nurturing male citizens. I don't know if it comes from my own mother's success or my generation's push to remain in the race for women-in-the-workforce, but I feel this incredible pressure to explain why I've made the decisions that I've made.
I moved to Atlanta about two weeks ago, and this is my second move to a city based on where my partner has found employment. Although both times the decision was thoroughly contemplated, measured, and discussed, I continue to fight back insecurities and fears that try to tell me that I've made the wrong choice. My mind so easily creates this storyline where I am a hypocrite - where I am giving up, wasting my talents, and limiting myself.
Somewhere I read quite possibly the most useful bit of advice that I have ever heard. And the gist of it said this: "You don't owe anyone an explanation."
When I tell people why I've moved to a new city - not for a job of my own, and not to go back to school, but because I helped my partner land his dream job here - I say it with pride. I say it with a certainty and an excitement that is not only the truth, but also part of a process, one that I have been working on internally and externally for a long time now.
Shame is ugly, and it stinks.
So when I can smell it on myself - when I feel shameful for the reason I moved to a new city, what I am doing for employment - I try to remember that I don't owe anyone an explanation. In actuality, I don't even owe myself an explanation, I just have to live with the outcomes of my decisions. And if I can wake up in the morning knowing that my decisions are helping me become a better person, then its a lot easier to rinse off that stink.
And when I need a quick rinse... I just remind myself that I don't owe anyone anything!
Maria Borghoff is a multi-disciplinary artist, Tantra Yoga teacher, body oil enthusiast, and root vegetable lover. Check out her work at mariaborghoff.com