Unconventional Mentors no. 3 - Kate Bolick
“You are born, you grow up, you become a wife. But what if it wasn’t this way?”
Kate Bolick is an American journalist who is a contributing editor for The Atlantic, and also writes for The New York Times, Vogue, Slate and other publications. She teaches writing at New York University and since the publication of her book Spinster in 2015 she has become a role model for single women everywhere, reclaiming a once derogatory term into an empowering statement of independence.
Kate Bolick’s book Spinster, is a book that changed how I see my life and also one of the inspirations for me starting this project. The book is part memoir, part commentary on the history of the spinster and part biography of five amazing and interesting women who lived mostly single lives. Kate’s Awakeners, as she calls the five women writers that she features in her book, have been her go to place for guidance and advice about the choices she is making in her life. The book tells the story of Kate’s journey from always being in relationships to forging a life on her own, reclaiming the word Spinster along the way. What I loved about it was the way her work and her life intertwined, one informing the other and together it forms part of her identity. Unconventional Mentors is very much about a project about finding advice and inspiration for your career, but it isn’t always straightforward to compartmentalise your time into work and the rest of your life, everything is intertwined. I also loved the ideas of her Awakeners. I’ve always looked to the stories and lives of women for reassurance in my own choices and for inspiration on how to live a fuller life, so to see it written about so eloquently really spoke to me.
“Those of us who’ve bypassed the exits for marriage and children tend to motor through our thirties like unlicensed drivers, unauthorized grownups.”
As a woman who hasn’t married and hasn’t had children I often feel that the stories I see in the world around me, on television, in film, in writing, don’t speak to me. To have a whole book about women not doing the two things that society expects us to do is rare and very much needed. I am so happy about my choices and feel that I am living a life that is true to me, but at times, when my choices are not the norm, it can feel like I am the odd one out, so books like this are so important. To ensure the stories of women who have made different choices are told.
Mentor advice: Build the life that you want for yourself
The advice that I take from Kate Bolick is, in your career, in your life, make the choices and build a life that you want for yourself. Kate talks about the choices that she felt that she should make and the realisation that this wasn’t what she wanted and nothing was going to change unless she changed it. Another quote from Spinster is that “few realizations are as demoralizing as knowing that the only thing standing between you and what you want is yourself.” This idea is both scary and empowering at the same time. Kate listened to what was true for her, made a bold choice to leave behind what was expected of her, what she expected of herself and started to live a life true to herself. What could be more rewarding?