My Dad Gives Me Choices: On Male Authority Today
I’m very lucky. For the most part, I’ve never wanted for anything. I’ve always had a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and clothes on my back. I’ve also always had parents who’ve supported all of my endeavors. In fact, one of my most vivid memories of my mom is after I learned that I didn’t get a role in the NJ Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker: she sat me down and told me that she would always be my cheerleader, no matter what. She sweetly paired this statement with a megaphone charm for me to add to my charm bracelet so that I’d always recall her support. I’ve never known what it’s like to not have the encouragement of my parents, and that is a privilege.
Even now, my dad lets me make my own decisions. He might not always like them or be worried about their hypothetical consequences, but nevertheless, he lets me make them on my own. This goes for big choices too, like when I decided that I wanted to quit dancing after twelve years, or when I decided that I didn’t want to be a counselor at camp this summer and instead wanted to take an EMT course. My dad supports me through complex decision-making processes while also giving me the freedom to come to my own conclusions. This dynamic between me and my dad has both strengthened our relationship while simultaneously allowing me to have autonomy over myself.
I’m lucky that I live in an environment where this behavior is becoming the norm instead of an anomaly. If I look back just 50 years, or a few states over now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, I might not be able to find examples of young women able to make their own decisions despite the presence of male authority figures. And I’m very aware that nowadays, it's not a guarantee. I’m lucky that I live in an environment where this behavior is becoming the norm instead of an anomaly.
Having the ability to make my own decisions and in turn, dictate the way my life transpires is so important to me. I’ve always been an independent person, and I recognize that this is a privilege that not all people—especially women in our society—possess. As a teen, I’ve seen firsthand from my friends’ parental relationships what it is like to be unable to make important decisions for yourself. Unlike me, their parents dictate their choices, thus minimizing my friends’ perceived credibility and personal freedom. I know how frustrating and constricting that can be from my countless conversations with them.
Because I have the opportunity to make my own decisions, I’m able to create my own sense of self. I’m able to do all of the things that I want to do and to participate in the things that truly make me happy because I don’t have anyone telling me that I can’t. I’m able to dip my toes in many things, for example: theater, medical club, and writing. I get to whittle down my activities to those that make time fly because I don’t have any external forces dictating what I do. I choose what I want to do; no one else does.
I never truly realized how much power that gives me until right now. It has allowed me to come into my own and discover who I truly am and who I want to be. I was never told, “you have to do this” or “you have to do that,” but instead asked, “do you want to do this” or, “do you want to do that.” I have been allowed to explore, question, and discover so many things because of this. I’ve been given opportunities that I never would’ve dreamed of. The chance to have power over my own choices is an incredible opportunity that many people don’t have and should. Because of my dad and his support of me, I have the ability to come even more into my own as I grow older. I won’t be lost or confused with things and choices that come my way. Instead, because I’ve been given the chance to make my own choices from a very young age, I will have the tools and experiences to be able to find my own way.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.