I recently wrote a piece titled ‘Mrs. Shut the Fuck Up.’ You can read it here. Within it, I discussed how I was feeling resentment towards what one reader defined as “patriarchy robbing you of earth where you could stand no matter what in exchange for outrageously hilarious imagery of being a sparkly princess.” This was the perfect cherry on top of the entire piece, as I struggled to find words to fit this inadequacy I felt.

Just two weeks ago, I felt completely trapped by the idea of womanhood- as defined by a man. It inspired me to write the particularly negative and somehow empowering work. But after a trip eighteen hundred miles back home, a bad high from dispensary weed, and finally seeing one of the men who has held my heart for years, it became clear to me: I am free.

I severed the ties that held me to multiple men. The daydreams that we might someday be together, the reliving of old experiences we had, all of this was cast out. I decided to redefine these relationships of old. This time, I let myself leave them in the past.

You see, I felt so trapped because I was holding the key to my own cage, and I wouldn’t let myself out. I continued to fantasize and romanticize and bullshiticize the relationships I’ve had. I allowed myself to see worth only in those things, convinced that everything I do is some reflection of desire for a man.

Then- the moment of clarity.

I can’t control how men look at me. I can’t control if they want to be with me, want to fuck me, hate me, or adore me. Frankly, I just don’t want to care about what they want when it comes to who I am. I am me, regardless of expectation from a man or anyone else. If I just free myself from this misogynistic lens, I see a whole different woman.

I see a beautiful, intelligent, warm woman. She has goals and ideas and she laughs, hard. I don’t see attachments, hidden or not. She is learning, growing, evolving, all without a man’s help. She is wonderfully independent.

For the first time since I was fourteen, I am completely unattached. I have freed myself from the desire of being with men who I will never be with. I have conquered teenage romance, and I have left it where it belongs. I can look at him and see just a man, one who I wish the best for but don’t include myself in. I’m not lonely, because I’m not pursuing. Even more so, I’m finally done pursuing things I can never have. I’m over the self sabotage.

Does this mean the patriarchal ideals of womanhood no longer are forced upon me? Of course not. They still exist, whether I live in their confines or not. I’m free from the burdens I placed on myself, but societal ones still exist. The difference is I choose to pay them no respect. Wife and motherhood have no impact on how I live today. I choose to live a life I want to live, not one of preparing for a future identity.

For now, I am letting myself run free through the fields of my mind. There, I am alone, draped in sunshine, and always whole. She is the woman I will be with for the rest of my life, and she’s the one I want to love.

College student, woman, master of sarcasm, occasional inhabitant of this brain. Nebraska. Washington.