To be born in a family with mostly male in its members, I became quite a tomboy; was a make-believe pirate/treasure hunter, climbed trees and collected GI Joes. At the time when girls play house and boys play war, I’m sure you can already guess who’s side I was on. As I got older, I saw “The Godfather”, “Rocky” and “Indiana Jones” more than drama movies. Well of course I had pink dresses, pastel-colored hair bands and Barbies, but didn’t pay much attention to them.
By the time I turned 13 and went to junior high, my Mum gave me books by Brontë Sisters (Charlotte and Emily) and Jane Austen. I loved all three, but my heart was instantly captured by Austen. The book was “Pride and Prejudice”. I also read the works of Enid Blyton, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Mitchell, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir and many great women authors, yet my heart keeps coming back to Austen.
Throughout the (long, long) years, I became more feminine and less like a tomboy. Thank God. I got to know more of skirts, dresses, girly colors and make-up. I felt awkward at first, being a tomboy for so long. Took me a while until I could get a grip and admit to myself, “Okay girl, you need to change.” Of course I had God, my family and close friends to thank, but I can never forget Miss Austen for opening my eyes on how a woman should be.
Though I love reading books by Austen and watching the movies, I dare not call myself a “true Janeite”; there’s still much for me to learn. But if I may say, I found the female characters in Austen’s books uniquely strong, each in their own ways; they may have broken hearts and cried with ache for the male characters, but they did not give up. On love. On life. For me personally, a strong woman is not someone who can always stand tall and proudly resist a tear from falling, but someone who’s not afraid to cry, yet not give in to her sadness and keep on living her life, one day at a time.
In a way, Jane Austen helped shaped me be the woman I am today; not weak but strong, not scared but brave. Most of all, not settling down for anything less than what I deserve, but to pursue relentlessly what my heart is telling me, even if it means I have to stand alone.
[March 18, 2012]