You know what’s the biggest hurdle women face? The constant, relentless pressure to fit into societal standards. Whether it’s the media, peers, or even close family, there’s always a “right way” to be a woman, a mother, a professional. Remember that movie “Joy” with Jennifer Lawrence? It’s a classic example of a woman’s potential being continually undermined until she decides enough is enough. And let’s not even get started on the countless TV shows where women are typecast into specific roles, only to have a ‘transformation’ based on societal approval.
Sidestepping these social pressures to conform to how society believes women should behave is an art and a challenge, but, it’s worth every ounce of effort. Going rogue, being that independent thinker isn’t a cakewalk. Society doesn’t hand out rewards for it. But from personal experience, the internal satisfaction? It’s unmatched. I’ve defined my success, juggled roles across continents, and set out to build a life that felt right.
Defying Social Standards
In Guangdong, China, where I built my career, there’s often a set path for women, especially those juggling family and work. But I chose to redefine the narrative. When I decided to push for higher education while managing a demanding job and two kids eyeing education in the USA, it took all the courage I had. The whispers began: She’s just a woman. She’s really unrealistic. This is not a woman’s thing.
When my kids were transitioning to schools in the USA, the naysayers had a field day. ‘Why not China?’ ‘How will you manage?’ ‘Isn’t that too ambitious?’ But here’s the thing: I defined success on MY terms. It wasn’t about the societal gold star; it was about what felt right for my family and me.
Yes, my two children are currently studying in the USA while I continue to work in Guangdong, China. When they first moved to the US, they were under the care of a close family friend who has been living there for quite some time. This friend is someone my children and I trust deeply, and they have been instrumental in helping my kids adapt and feel at home in a new country.
I meticulously planned my days, dedicating early mornings to studies, and evenings to accompany the children remotely by video. Weekends? They were split between family outings and deep dives into academic projects.
A Personal Struggle
One of the most challenging episodes was when my eldest, Leo, faced a health scare while in the USA. My world was in Guangdong, but my heart was thousands of miles away. Every call from the hospital felt like a dagger, and the conference room became a battlefield, where I fought to keep my composure, my emotions at bay.
The silence of the night was pierced with whispered prayers and suppressed sobs. I remember holding back tears during a crucial meeting, the voices around me blurring into the background, Leo’s face dominating my thoughts. But succumbing to the despair was not an option. I took a week off, flew to the USA, ensured Leo received the best care, and worked remotely during that period. Those late-night calls with my team, troubleshooting issues while sitting in a hospital corridor, reinforced my belief in adaptability and resilience. There were moments of doubt, tears in the dead of night. But every time I felt like breaking, I remembered WHY I started this journey.
The Unyielding Spirit
How does it feel to be a woman who weathered the storm of the opinions of others as well as my own self judgments and emerged stronger? Empowering. Every single day, when I look in the mirror, I see a woman who defied norms, who chose her path, and who didn’t let societal standards dictate her story. There’s a quiet pride, a silent resolve, and an unwavering belief that I can handle whatever life throws next. But more than anything, there’s a hope that my journey can inspire others, especially women, to craft their narratives.
So, my friend, if there’s one thing you take from our conversation, let it be this: Your life, your rules. And trust me, once you truly embrace that, there’s no looking back.
Lily Li is the customer service manager at Suproto, a leading CNC machining service provider.
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