There was a man who sat beside me on the plane from Minneapolis to Omaha. He was a nice enough gentleman and not terribly intrusive, though obviously bored. His sole carry on piece of luggage was a ukulele in a brown felt bag and a tiny little book in his jacket pocket about fatherhood. He chatted with me to pass the time. I learned he lived in a small town in Iowa not far from Omaha, he had a son and daughter, both unwed and living in Georgia, and he belonged to The Navigators a Christian campus ministry. He learned I was a student at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln, on my way home from a conference, and also unwed. This was unfortunate, in his mind.
He asked if it was my first year in college and I had to laugh. "So far from it," I told him, "it's no longer funny." When he realized I was 27, he noted there was no wedding band on my finger. We talked about many things, but always came back to marriage. He teasingly tried to set me up with his son, who appeared to be searching for a smart, attractive woman, who made at least as much money as he did. The man assumed that when I said marriage was not on the top of my priority list, career must naturally takes its place. I laughed again and told him I would probably be one of the poorest architects ever, the kind who works for clients who can't really afford professional fees and will probably pay in potatoes.
The poor man looked even more puzzled. Truth to tell, I understood his quandary since it was something I have often faced myself. I explained to him that architecture is what I'm good at, it's what I do best, but not my ultimate goal in life. My goal is to help people and I feel that architecture is the means by which I can be of the most use. I had never explained that to anyone before. Saying it felt good.
I think he doubted me, doubted that anyone could exist whose ultimate goal was simply to "help people" in whatever way they felt they could best do so. I'm sure he saw me as a hopeless naive optimistic child. I suppose I am. I often set idealistic goals, because in striving for that ideal, even if I fall short, at least I might come close.
"God has a plan for you," he told me.
"So people say," I replied.
Yet something about the encounter puzzles me still. I find myself going over it in my head. Is my "career" simply number two on my list, or is it actually that my "career" is helping people. In that case, am I a career woman? I simply don't wish to acknowledge it because of the negative connotation?
And for that matter, why are there negative connotations associated with "career woman?" I even find them in my own mind from time to time, despite the fact that I've rarely known a woman who wasn't. Yet there remains this stigma of a cold, hard person who "neglects" her family, husband, and children, or else ends up alone, a bitter, old crone - angry that the world punished her for choosing her career over her family, or that she chose to even dare to try to have both. It bothers me to be associated with this stigma.
So instead, I choose a different route - claiming to value neither career nor family above all else. Is it truly a different path, or am I just splitting hairs?
"Haven't you ever been twitterpated over somebody?" he asked.
I just shrugged.