The Number One Lesson Millennial Women Can Learn From Lena Dunham
I rapidly shuddered the first time I heard Hannah Horvath say, “I think I may be the voice of my generation.” Her bright sentiment seemed all-too-familiar.
Somewhere between watching Carrie Bradshaw color the pages of The New York Star with her words and reading "100 Years of Solitude" at the impressionable age of 15, I knew I wanted to be a writer.
When people ask me why I write and what I like to write about, I curve my spine and become self-conscious. I hesitantly respond by explaining that I like to write about my life and myself. As the words leave my lips, my mind becomes a kaleidoscope of questions:
Why would anyone care about my thoughts? Why am I so embarrassed to admit that I write about myself? I am just one tiny girl in one tiny liberal arts college with one tiny life. But there is one question I always ask myself that is the most disheartening: Why am I so ashamed to call myself a writer?
In the introduction to her newly published memoir entitled, "Not That Kind Of Girl," Lena Dunham explains,
There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman.
The bold spirit of that belief illuminates the entire book. This sentiment partially answers my personal and puzzling question.
Perhaps I am so afraid to call myself a writer because our culture does not make space for young women to candidly and intimately talk about their stories. Well, not unless your “I Love Cats” video goes viral on YouTube.
In the midst of all of this self-reflection, I can’t help but feel a fleeting, yet potent surge of sadness. I can’t help but think about all the times people have told me that writing and talking about my stories as a young and "inexperienced" woman was just an execution of narcissism and self-indulgence.
If I have experienced unkindness like this, I’m sure many Millennials have also.
It is easy to feel anonymous and hushed as a female in a world, which, in its language and images, reaffirms silence. Couple our culture with a general diminishing appreciation for the arts and a growing appreciation for likes on a photo, and the beautiful impulse of expression turns into a massacre of questions.
The more I think about this, the more I realize that writing is the polar opposite of narcissism. In fact, writing is altruism. Writing leads to self-examination. Self-examination leads to generosity and kindness. Stories need to be told, but more importantly, stories need to be heard.
Lena opens her introduction with the line, “I am 20 years old and I hate myself.” All I can think is, 'WOW, SAME.' But not in the eighth-grade-Bright-Eyes-teenage-angst kind of way; I connect with that line because I know what it feels like to be infinitely despondent in my own skin.
And the bottom layer of sadness is loneliness. Something about knowing that another woman has felt the same sadness I have felt somehow makes me less alone. Sometimes, it is hard to remember that we are not alone. We are all trying to make it out alive and in one piece.
The greatest lesson I learned while reading this book? Sharing is beautiful.
Success, failure and heartbreak are just a few of the things that make our coffee-infused hearts beat. And, ultimately, these experiences are what twines us together.
It is up to us to create space for young women to write about and discuss life and personal experiences. Take the first step, and start talking.
Photo Courtesy: HBO/Girls