There’s this quote by Albert Einstein:
“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”
This quote has been my personal motto for years, because it’s applicable in almost every situation. Know the rules. Figure out the game. Work your ass off. Win. Repeat.
It’s how I stood out in college, made an impression as an unpaid intern, and navigated the workforce during my first few years out of school. I figured out what was expected, what was particularly appreciated, what was frowned upon, and wasn’t tolerated under any circumstance. I learned the culture, developed my strategy, and then made it happen. Once you learned the formula for success, it’s as simple as checking off the boxes.
But when it comes to being a successful modern woman in today’s society, there are too many rules, too many boxes, for you to check off. Learning them isn’t hard. We already know them. But playing better than anyone else? Good luck with that.
Don’t believe me?
Here are the rules for the modern millennial woman:
On any given day, the modern millennial woman is expected to wake up at 5 AM for her daily jog and/or strength training routine. After her workout, she showers, shaves, exfoliates, and then spends an hour drying and styling her hair, applying mascara, and filling in her eyebrows. She gets dressed in the latest fashion, remembering to accessorize. She grabs a pre-made smoothie in a mason jar before driving to work in her environmentally friendly car while listening to self-development podcasts.
And that’s just assuming she doesn’t have a partner or 2.5 children and a Goldendoodle, as is so commonly expected in today’s society. In that case, keep the above routine exactly the same and add in an hour of breastfeeding, cloth diaper changing, and spending some quality one-on-one time with her partner. Oh, and of course, feeding the dog his raw, organic food and taking him for a walk around the neighborhood. And if the kids are a little older, don’t forget to coordinate daycare and school drop-offs with a side of small talk while sipping almond milk lattes with the rest of the Moms.
After a day of working hard at the office, stopping only to eat an organic salad from Whole Foods and LaCroix water, the modern millennial woman swings by the afterschool day care program at the Montessori school- a program that costs $1,500 a month- to pick up her lovely children. After hosting a playdate, cleaning the house from top to bottom, taking the Goldendoodle for yet another walk, and driving the kids to soccer practice, she decides to cook a vegetarian dinner from scratch while helping her oldest conjugate Spanish verbs. She remembers to take a quick picture of this typical family moment before updating it to Instagram, applying the necessary filter and captioning it #Blessed. When her husband comes home, she gives him a kiss, asks him about his day, quizzes her son on the meaning of the word tocar, and sets the table using one of the pre-designed templates in Real Simple. After a lovely family dinner, the millennial woman relaxes with a glass of red wine and adult coloring books and proceeds to have a panic attack over all the ways she is not living up to her duties as a mother, a wife, a woman, etc.
It’s bullshit, but it’s true.
Those are the rules. That’s what we’re taught to do. That’s who we’re taught to be. Perfect. Professional. Skinny. Creative. Loving. Social. That’s the name of the game. Those are the expectations. Smile all day at work. Make vegan dinners. Brainstorm nursery decor on Pinterest. Stay a size 6. Go to happy hour. Send out Christmas cards. Be a supportive wife/partner. Take up a hobby. Have a perfectly kept home. Document it all on three-four social media platforms.
It’s not possible. No one can do all those things. But we try. Goddamn, do we try. We try so unbearably hard to play the game and make it look effortless. And the worst part is, we’re actually fooling each other. Which is awful, because now we all secretly feel like we’re doing it wrong, like we can’t measure up, like there’s something wrong with us because we don’t have time to make dinner, or have an overflowing laundry basket, or haven’t seen the inside of a gym in over a month.
The rules of the game? They’re killing us. They are driving us batshit crazy. And for what? Who are we trying to impress? What are we after, anyway? What is the point of all this effort?
What if we all decided we were done?
What if we, collectively as a generation, let the stupid Christmas cards go? Or maybe the Pinterest nursery thing? Maybe we could all stop Instagramming our vegan dinners and just decide to eat something without documenting it? What if we just decided to remove the pressure and just did what felt right to us, without the fear of backlash?
It doesn’t benefit anyone when we continue to play by these rules and act like it’s easy. We’re stressing ourselves out, depleting our energy, limiting our potential. We are playing a game that has no end. There’s no way we can win. The game is rigged.
I’m ready to opt out. I’m done with trying to be the perfect millennial woman. I don’t have it all together, and I’m reminding myself that there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m going to be more intentional about dropping the curtain, about letting my true feelings be heard. I’m going to stop playing and start being real. Life’s hard enough without the added pressure of making it look easy.