I’ve been writing since I first successfully received treatment around half my life ago. I was hospitalized at the time and the subject of my independence was foremost in my mind. It wasn’t until years later, however, when I was immersed in married life, that I realized that the case for being independent and autonomous must continually be made at several stages in life. For so many of the women I knew, married life had denied them a life of their own, or at the very least, a vocation they could call theirs.
Sooner rather than later, I made sure my vocation and passion, writing, was something that I could use to earn but also something that would be rewarding in every sense. I’d have my very own aspect to my life, something that I, as Lamia Islam, could exclusively develop. Doing things this way is a welcome break from the usual rhythm of life for a woman within a nuclear family where, in many cultures that I can think of, certainly that of Bangladesh, they must move in servitude from daughter to wife to mother, only to pass this down to the next generation.
Instead, myself and innumerable women across the world have taken it upon themselves to isolate what it is we get the most enjoyment out of and pair it with what our children will get the most out of. Getting better occupied this space for such a long time that it took a fair few years for me to realize that these desires aren’t the same thing as attaining independence. And as our world comes round to being more and more material and the industries that produce material things continue to be fairly male-dominated, financial independence remains key to separating yourself from the burdens and limitations of others. I’m not sure how people can claim to be content with where they are in life without taking into their own hands their privileges and responsibilities in this manner. Besides, we’re all granted a trial run at this, when it comes to moving out of our parents’ home. Mostly this is done as a testing of one’s boundaries, advancing and regressing in an improvised yet predictable pattern until the right pace of life is established. Regardless, establishing said boundaries is essential. You don’t need to have Bipolar disorder to realize how much of a priority dictating how you want to live and who you want to spend your life with is. Arranged marriage can often hinder this process, as can being denied the appropriate distance from home when it comes to going to university. I’d encourage any woman to hold on to these liberties at the time, where setting a precedent for your own autonomy will give you and those around you a keen sense of your ability to do so in the future.
The finer points of this, such as the exact moment these inroads will come or the depth and extent of the mistakes you’ll make to gain experience, are unique to every individual in the world. At the very least, then, you can make sure that they are your mistakes, your stumbles and eventually your success. Understand that I’m not necessarily talking about being rich and famous – independence is its own reward. Imagine what you can do with the autonomy and agency to grant gifts to the people and the causes you find most worthy, to make decisions of your own and to reassert your intellectual capacity to deal with the consequences, good or bad or even to travel to and find accommodations in the furthest parts of the world and better inform this judgement.
This will be one of the first things I teach my children, not least my eldest, my daughter, where we literally pay for our choices and privileges in this world but that doesn’t always have to be a bad thing.