You do not become a woman, you learn how to be one

As a young girl, it is impossible to imagine just how challenging it will be to live life as a woman. For this reason, the transition from childhood into womanhood is one that shocks you. This transformation comes as such a surprise because you realize that you do not, in fact, “become” a woman. Instead, you are forced to “learn” how to be one.

In my opinion, it is this act of learning that makes women around the world so different. While we may look, think, behave and speak differently, one thing unites us: we are the products of our societies. In other words, when a young girl grows into a woman, she must learn how to fit into the mold which has been carved out for her by the place in which she lives; a mold which has been created many, many years ago. It follows then that the transition from being a girl to becoming a woman involves shrinking, bending, twisting and often, breaking. Unsurprisingly, this means experiencing excruciating pain.

It is these outdated, man-made molds which are responsible for the differences between women around the world. While some have found ways to break free, others have become skilled at painlessly fitting in. In any case, whether you break free or learn how to cope, transforming into a woman means learning how to survive.

Over the last several years, I have lived in three different countries. Uprooting your life is an already difficult experience that is only made worse by the realization that what was deemed acceptable for a woman in one place is not so in another. As a result, moving across the world meant having to transform myself over and over again.

When I first moved from the Middle East to Western Europe, I began to chip away at parts of the mold in which I found myself at the time. More specifically, I chipped away the parts I no longer seemed to need. Little did I know that in a few years, I would find myself in Eastern Europe, frantically searching for the pieces I had thrown away.

Today, I find myself wondering what to keep and what to lose. I find myself in a state of panic and confusion: “Do I chip away at the mold I am in or do I shrink to fit?” More importantly, I once again find myself wishing for a world in which women are not forced to learn how to be a woman — a world in which they can just be.

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