I’ve always been happy on my own, doing the things I love even if they weren’t cool - as a child, I was a bespectacled bookworm, my head full of stories and my imagination constantly running away with me. So many of the narratives I read were full of passive women; women who had things happen to them rather than did things themselves.
It was only aged 17, when I discovered Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber” (and feminist literature as a whole), that I began to realise that I could, and wanted to determine my life. My life, my choices - traditional gender roles and expectations weren’t compulsory, nor did they really suit my vision for what I wanted from life.
I stopped waiting for things to happen to me, stopped making excuses for having not done the things I wanted to do
Aged 20, I signed up to teach English in Mexico for six weeks, before backpacking from Mexico City to Cancún by myself. As a tall, blonde woman I didn’t exactly fit in in a Hispanic country - there was no pretending I was anything but an outsider, and no way of fitting in.
Yet my trip was liberating precisely because of this. Yes, there was misogyny, and yes the shouts of “hola guapa” rang in my ears almost constantly. Still, it was tapered by the kindness of the burly man who approached me, beaming and stopped traffic so I could cross the road. The girls who invited me to fiestas and discotecas. The father who walked with me to the bus station to tell me about the daughter he was so proud of. And my students who whatsapped me once a week to ask how I was enjoying my trip.
Travelling alone let me fall in love with a new place, people and culture in a way I would have never done otherwise. It gave me a renewed faith in the kindness of others and I realised I never wanted to miss out on an experience because I was worried or scared about doing it alone.
I learnt to value my own company and take time for myself - two things I believe are so important. The patriarchy makes women think they are dependent on others, that they are weak without a man. I know I am strong and capable. I know that my gender doesn’t need to be a barrier and shouldn’t be used as an excuse. I’m a woman, but I am so much more than that too.