I’m going to be vulnerable for a minute. Listening again through all of the discussions that took place at the inaugural Bâtonnage Forum, I kind of got upset. I know, not what you were expecting me to say. I’m supposed to say it was inspiring and so wonderful — and it was — but what upset me was the number of times women said I did this because I had a supportive partner. And, as a single woman, I asked myself: What happens if you don’t?
Four years ago, I made some major changes in my own life, jumping into a void of uncertainty: I completely changed the focus of my career, moving from a steady job at Sotheby’s to an unknown, undefined position working as a brand ambassador for Passopisciaro and Tenuta di Trinoro. This led me into developing a consultancy business built on personal brand, know-how, and contacts, and I’m still trying to figure out what’s next, where next will be, etc. And I don’t have anyone — a partner specifically — to bounce ideas off of or make decisions with.
That life change included leaving a man, for a variety of personal reasons I won’t go into here, and the last four years have been utterly focused on trying to make it in this business, especially since I'm building out my own path. I travel; I study; I work on lots of different projects; I go out to accounts and with clients, and accounts and clients have become friends; I am always seeking to better myself. But sometimes I ask myself, am I also just spinning and spinning like the top that eventually wobbles and falls? And when I fall, who’s going to be there to right me again?
And so I think a lot about solitude, and about loneliness. The writer Maggie Nelson, in her book Bluets, writes, “I have been trying, for some time now, to find dignity in my loneliness. I have been finding this hard to do. It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem.” There is a part of me that revels in the freedom that comes with solitude: my ability to travel, my ability to make sometimes risky gambles on jobs, my ability to build the kind of life I have always wanted. But then again, what if I’m building a life without room for someone else? Or, more potently, what if being with someone requires me giving up all that I’ve built?
So hearing multiple panelists talk about the fact they were able to do much not only because of their own strength and dedication, but also because they had a supportive partner by their side — and yay, I’m so happy to hear about wonderful women finding great men or women to have by their side — you see why this commentary might be difficult. Of course, I have an extensive network of wonderfully supportive family and friends, but the question of finding “that person” still nags at me: I turned 32 this year, and though it’s not old, it’s also not young. At least in terms of the question of what does “next” look like, whether it will (or if I want it to) include having children, and how that decision will change the rhythms of this life and career I've been building for myself. Watching friends and peers have children, I know more; I am always conscious of the fact that women’s lives change more. They just do. And men have a little more time to figure things out. So again I ask myself, what does that mean for me?
Bâtonnage is all about having the conversations none of us really want to have. So, I’m going to ask all of you: Did any of you think about this as well after listening to the speakers talks? Where do you find support if you do not have a partner? Are you worried that, by prioritizing career, you might be ignoring other parts of your life? What does any of this mean for YOU?