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  • Writer's pictureKarl Walker-Finch

The Bell Jar

Not everything I read is personal development or non-fiction, I recently dabbled in little bit of not-so-light semi-fictional reading (often listening) and immersed myself in The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

A dark but fascinating read about a young woman’s struggle with mental health issues, despite having what she thinks is an an ideal life. To say it resonated with me is an understatement, though my extremes in no way reach the levels of Esther’s (our protagonist).

The metaphor of depression of feeling trapped under a bell jar also sounded familiar, entrapped in an invisible cage with the rest of the world passing by and my own senses being numbed, sounds muffled, voice not heard etc. The perception of the outside world from within the bell jar is distorted and this has significant repercussions on every aspect of living.

Esther talks (a lot) of her fear of marriage and how she perceives that she would have to sacrifice everything in her own life, her own dreams, for the sake of her husband, leaving her to become a homemaker. My first thought was that I’m fortunate to live in an age where such rigid gender roles are in theory eroding and it’s not always the man who has to go to work and the woman who stays at home.

We, as a society, have now accepted that it’s ok for a mum to go to work and for a dad to stay at home and look after the kids, haven’t we? I get some funny looks when I say I don’t work on Mondays because I’m Dad on that day. A close friend also recently told me how far he’s had to battle to achieve the same thing in his work and how he’s not allowed to finish work early to look after his kids, when many of his female colleagues are allowed to do so. It’s embarrassing that we still demand the woman plays these roles, along with the delays to career progression, loss of pension value not to mention the loss of an opportunity to develop your own skills.

This is before we’ve even started considering how our friends in same sex relationships cope, though I fear this may be a minor hurdle in comparison to other stigma’s they may still face.

The problem we have now, is that everyone is trying to be everything to all people. Both parents are trying to be workers and full-time parents. A kind of domestic game of FOMO.

It’s unsustainable to try to be everything to all people, all the time, no matter how well intentioned. Some level of balance needs to be struck lest we find ourselves buried once again, beneath the bell jar.

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