“I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle—something heroic or wonderful—that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead.”
This declaration from Louisa May Alcott’s boldly-blunt heroine, Jo March, seems to make up for any domestic impropriety that so often defines her character in the eyes of other women. Although not as eager as her sisters to take on the role of a woman, and even less accepting of the docile lifestyle that comes with it, Jo understands that true womanhood is not the act of meekly folding one’s hands in a home made by a husband—it is rather the graceful art of using these hands for a brilliant purpose.
With a spirit of passion and a mind of possibilities, Jo follows her dream of becoming a woman meant for more than mere existence. Unlike her sweetly simple sisters who desire nothing greater than securing a husband and settling down, Jo yearns to actively partake in the grand scheme of life.
Never a moment passes throughout the pages of Little Women in which we do not find Jo overlooking girlish conversations and household chores to finish drafting an adventurous story or brooding over a novel’s tragic plot twist. Jo is the only March sister whose head is not full of visions of romance, for she is constantly busy contemplating how to use her gift of creativity and talent for writing to impact a world that most 18th century women only watched through their kitchen windows.
… Jo yearns to actively partake in the grand scheme of life.
However, Jo finds that in order for a woman to fulfill a worthy purpose, she must first travel through the wilderness of independence: an uncharted territory of the vast unknown to which her society has yet to forge a path. Although embarking on a journey that she must map on her own, the purposeful woman is gifted with creativity as her compass and ingenuity as her guide. A woman with creative talent, such as Miss March, is a paragon of peculiarity because her plans do not coincide with those of housewives and homemakers. Yet, her eccentric nature is necessary in the land of the ordinary.
Like Jo, many of us find ourselves surrounded by those who appear to fit into the social conventions of womanhood. We all know women of similar age who have found romance—and maybe even a ring—before we have, but perhaps an untamed longing to see your skills further a fruitful cause has remained first in your heart. For some of us, our unique purposes may lead to a career before a relationship and that’s OK.
We must never allow questions of what could have been to veil the beautifully ordained fulfillment of our talent. In a generation of women lost within the fading glamour of social trends, it is indeed time for young ladies to boldly follow the path of individuality and allow their passion to transform their lives.
It is only when we follow our own course that the talents with which we have been gifted come to fruition, although not always in the way we had planned. Jo, who once dreamed of becoming a famed novelist, instead founded a school to share her passion of reading and writing. She realized that, instead of taking the path of domestic conformity, she was able to empower children to appreciate their own special gifts. Just as Jo did not foresee her future, we too will never know where the guiding light of our talents may lead us, but we can be sure that they will shine far better if we simply choose to nurture the flame.
Here’s the best part: If we, like Jo, decide to do “something splendid” with our gifts before we enter the castle of domestic life, then whichever castle lies along our paths will inevitably be more grand than those along the road most-traveled.
Whichever castle lies along our paths will inevitably be more grand than those along the road most-traveled.
After arriving at a future of her own making, Jo met a man that suited her finer than the linen aprons of her homemaking sisters. He matched her in both intellect and spirit. Most importantly, he appreciated the dreams that had distanced her from former love interests.
So for all of you writers, artists and career-minded women with horizons full of aspiration, never be afraid to blaze a trail with your talent. Be confident in your creativity, have faith in your future and always remember that one bold step of independence can transform you from a little woman to a lady of legacy.
Image via Anthropologie