I was an overachiever in high school: student council president; tennis team captain; Guam’s All-Island Tennis women’s champion. It was part of my strategy to get into the Ivy League, which I did. And still, I was overly frustrated seeing others’ accomplishments.
My mom would ask: “Why do you always compare yourself to the best?”
I wanted to feel like I was enough, when in reality, I needed to silence my inner critic, akin to Serena Williams’ forceful grunt on the tennis court. And now that I’m in my mid-30s, that voice is much quieter.
I grew up watching tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, and more recently saw “King Richard,” the film about their family’s journey to sports excellence. But today, I’m fascinated by Serena’s intentional step down from her throne. It’s inspiring and more importantly, validating.
To me, Serena is the ultimate GOAT of my generation. Not only did she collect Grand Slam victories, she is willing to pivot into the venture world, start a beautiful family and continue to express herself, honestly. In her words: “ … these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”
Having to choose is not glamorous. The grass is not always greener. There are gender differences in defining what fulfillment means. I’m not alone. According to a recent report, anxious Gen Z and millennial women are rethinking and reprioritizing.
And I want less stress, less judgment and fewer to-do lists for my résumé.
As a writer, I kept thinking I needed bigger bylines. As a wellness entrepreneur, I craved a world-class client list. As a content creator, I eyed awards instead of the process. I was barely surviving at times, with a mental health breakdown to boot, and my personal life was constantly on the struggle bus. After all that chasing, I’m so over the craze of girl boss culture and the drain of impostor syndrome.
Over the pandemic, I left New York City and the hustle culture that energized then winded me. I’m emerging so much happier in Seattle with my brother and my boyfriend, and my stable 9-5.
Like Serena, I want to build a family, have love and feel deep contentment. Unlike Serena, I hope I’m not having as hard of a time saying goodbye to my prior life.
I’m focused on thriving in a sustainable way, even if it feels like starting over, behind my peers at 36. I don’t have to have it all or need to do it all. I’m no longer in fight or fly-to-somewhere-to-escape mode. Without that unnecessary pressure, I feel a sense of relief of not having to be jealous.
In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept called nonattachment. In my life, I apply it with boundaries, flexibility and the idea that one shouldn’t be attached to any specific goal, because attachment causes division and suffering. Instead, you accept things as they are and that acceptance brings you peace.
I not only accept — but celebrate — Serena’s retirement, as mixed as she might feel about it. As for me, I now love my new normal and hope to lean back even further.