Your name was always so much more sophisticated than mine. You dropped the ‘i’ at University where you became a cooler version of me. I never quite pulled it off.
You were so sure of yourself. Confident where I was shy. Ambitious and unhindered by patriarchy. You were free to be a formidable barrister working for social justice and running projects to get young people’s voices heard. But on work experience at an Inns of Court in London I couldn’t find you. Aged 17 and you had become so clear in my mind. Your sharp tongue tasted sweet with justice. A young female barrister with a neat blonde bob tucked underneath her wig. But where were you? I looked high and low but I couldn’t find you. This didn’t seem like a place for a young woman who would be the first of her family to attend university. My best telephone voice stuck in my throat as it tried not to give me away. I was confronted with my gender in a way that I had never been before. This was a ‘boys club’ and you slipped out of reach.
At the time I thought it was the law that didn’t suit me rather than the, now obvious, realisation that I couldn’t see a woman like me in that world. So I carved out Kate mark II who would pursue social justice through the social sciences rather than the law.
You set up awesome social projects on the side when you weren’t busy in court and I built myself an ivory tower. I discovered things that made sense of our unease with injustice. Social theory. Feminism.
We drifted apart at uni as school friends often do. I married as barely an adult by today’s standards and you would have scoffed at the idea. I have a child. How about that? We both waited until we felt that biologically we must have children. For me that time was 27. Endometriosis wasn’t something I ever could have imagined for you. But I was one of the lucky ones. I get all the dibs on being the tired one. The much pitied and revered working mother.
I have more degrees than you and I’m even a doctor, but not a real one. Oh- nevermind. But that is pushed aside as I’m piled high and deep in shitty nappies and first words. I probably cry more than you do. But I laugh more too.
At times I wondered if you’d even want to hang with me if our paths crossed again. I feel strangely embarrassed to tell you that I worked for government. The very machine that we vowed to challenge, to raise our voice against. I was reforming from the inside. A lie that sticks as I type. You know I don’t believe that.
But I’m on the other side of the world. My imagination wasn’t big enough to dream this far. And it’s great. I’m thousands of miles away from you and yet suddenly here you are. You’re a job advert. A youth movement for justice.
I’m turning 31 today, but suddenly I’m 16 again and I realise you never left. You were always here and I don’t need much persuading.
See you on Monday
Love Katie x
This letter was inspired by attending a Women of Letters event that I attended tonight where seven inspiring women from New Zealand shared letters written to the woman they imagined they would be.