International Women's Day: How Astrid Lindgren helped me find my purpose — R Voice

International Women's Day: How Astrid Lindgren helped me find my purpose

Vivien Kretz
Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

International women’s day is an important day for me. And yes, I agree, women should be celebrated every day and the hardships we go through cannot be fixed by handing out roses. But I still choose to celebrate this day in what it is, this year through reflection. 

As a child, I grew up with the stories of the Swedish children’s books author Astrid Lindgren. Her childhood heroes, especially Ronja, the robber’s daughter and Pippi Longstocking, the girl who lived at the height of independence and could lift a horse at 9 years old, had the presence of strong girls in my life. They both were fearless characters and so was Astrid Lindgren herself.

When the author was as young as 19, she worked at a local newspaper and became pregnant by her boss. He insisted on marrying Astrid, but she refused. She kept her baby and, with a heavy heart, brought him to a host family. Entirely alone and with zero financial or emotional support, she began to build a life for herself and her child by seizing work in the big city of Stockholm, a total diametric to the rural area where she was born. She raised her child without being married to the child’s father which was a colossal scandal at the time and increased the feelings of shame and guilt she had to carry every day. 

Her life story had always inspired me. Whatever expectations society imposed on her; Astrid Lindgren persevered. 

The books she wrote were not merely targeted for children; they were made for children. She set her heart on creating strong and confident companions for children in whom they could find themselves. 

Chiefly ‘Madita’ left an imprint on me as she was astoundingly fearless. That girl would walk on roofs or jump from great heights with an umbrella simply because she was curious if she would have the power to fly. And even if those are terrible ideas, in the end, everything always got resolved and Madita continued to be fearless, even when she did not put her life on the line. She was not just bold, but also kind. Even when egotistical advances rose in her, she brushed them away. 

The world Astrid Lindgren created was extraordinary for me. Many of her stories were inspired by her own life experiences. Her power laid in how she took these things and made them greppable and accessible for everyone. Ronja, Pippi and Madita could become every girl’s friend. 

Lindgren’s way of telling stories has touched me since I was a child. I had always been obsessed with writing and there has been no time in my life where I didn’t write personally or professionally (or something in between these two). Wanting to tell stories for me is a huge part of my purpose, making people’s voices heard even more. 

That’s why I started to pursue an academic creative programme. And I am well aware that I will have to face many hardships in that world, not just because I pursue a degree in the humanities, but also because I am in the creative field. AND I am a woman. 

I still question my purpose very much. And that is a conversation that will never truly end. But Astrid Lindgren helped me get a closer grasp at what that purpose could be. 

The fearlessness and bravery with which she wrote and how she turned her own experiences into stories, and not only lessons, to pass on, inspires me to do the same. 


Comments

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    This write-up reminds me of the inspiration I had from the children's story books written and illustrated by Mrs. Sibil Weththasingha in Sri Lanka. Loved it and the way you are inspired and strengthened by her stories and story telling ability @Vivien Kretz . I do believe that storytelling is an incredible ability just same as public speaking as it could change one's journey of finding purpose and meaning of life. Stories are critical in changing children's mind for both good and bad and even a single drawing in a book can have a massive impact in them. While reading her uphill battle of raising her child amidst numerous societal challenges, I can see the effort and value she might have added to her books as messages to the whole childhood. We can learn a lot on how to become stronger and resistance to social determinants and there is no doubt how much you have been acquired from those stories. Thanks for bringing me back to my childhood when I was a book warm and read 300pages books with one sitting, which I'm longing for these days.

  • Soumi Paul
    Soumi Paul Member Posts: 204 ✭✭✭✭

    Every journey is incomplete if it remains unshared, every whisper of mind is silent if unheard. One thing I am assured that you are on the right path as you are still questioning your life purpose. I am sure you are close to finding it and will share more stories with 'ouRs.' I am looking forward to reading your stories like all enthusiastic R voicers.

    Communication is the key to thriving! 😊

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Yes @Isurika Sevwandi I 100 percent agree with you! Storytelling is such a powerful means, especially for emphasising. Exactly, especially those who have influenced us as children continue to influence us as adults and leave their mark.

    "We can learn a lot on how to become stronger and resistance to social determinants" -Yes, I 100 percent agree! That is such an amazing quote. It definitely is hard but if it is a battle for all of us to fight against societal standards, it is a battle worth fighting for.

    I am happy that a part of you got catapulted back to your childhood, that somehow was also the intention of this post: to connect with the roots. 😊

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Thank you for your kind words @Soumi Paul . I think finding purpose is always a term in negotiation and if we do not force ourselves to find it, we will be fine for finding it. I look forward to sharing my journey more and more on this platform and being inspired by all of yours. Thank you for that beautiful quote, it made me feel so soothed. 🥰

  • Soumi Paul
    Soumi Paul Member Posts: 204 ✭✭✭✭

    @Vivien Kretz, You are always welcome! :)

    Communication is the key to thriving! 😊

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    I could feel like I was equally drawing strength from the narrative of Ms. Astrid as much as you did @Vivien Kretz! This narration of yours about her is very telling of HOW MUCH she has influenced you and your academic purposes, which is so beautiful. Man! That is telling something!

    I could totally relate to @Isurika Sevwandi when she said she was a book worm, completing an entire 300 pages in one sitting and how she misses that time which she cannot get now. I have never been able to get THAT MUCH time in the last decade.

    Your take on the purpose of life is exactly what plagues my mind as well!🤩 I keep trying to find answers to that in every action of mine. I keep discussing it with my daughter who listens to it wide eyed and participates with her child like talk as well (I am blessed she is mature enough to already grasp the essence of it, at least when we talk about it)😍. Such philosophy is wonderful to discuss with one's family and gratifying when you get close to understanding it, which is very much like how you felt when you read about Ms. Astrid and her narrations.

    I am glad you brought out such an inspiring post as part of IWD! Thank you Vivien!😊

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    I really miss that time @Gayatri Ramachandran @Vivien Kretz where I used to read a lot and felt like an international reader by reading a lot of translation books including adventures and detective stories. I was a dying fan of Enid Blyton and I think those books shaped into who I was as a child/ student at school and enhanced my "think out of the box" perspective in terms of finding numerous alternatives to address a single problem.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin
    edited March 14

    This is such an amazing read @Vivien Kretz! I want to start by saying that you are quite the storyteller yourself 🤩 I'd never read about the life of Astrid Lindgren before this. It's safe to say that your writing style (and passion that comes out so clearly through your words) has piqued my interest enough to go searching for more. You've also taken me back to my own childhood where I'd spend hours reading. I can remember the "Nancy Drew" teen detective series most vividly. I loved following her on adventures and admired her need to get to the bottom of something. 😃

    Thank you for telling us Astrid Lindgren's story and how she has deeply influenced your story. Her courage, strength, and wisdom seem to be not only beyond her years but also much beyond that time. The taboo around single mothers has still not fully left society, unfortunately. So I can't even imagine how difficult it must have been for her back then. But as you've written, she persevered no matter what was thrown at her.

    I love the characters you've described from some of her work. Sure, they might not be realistic but I feel like children's literature should be as imaginative and creative as possible. That's one time in our lives where we were free to dream (without thinking about logistics LOL) and I don't think this should ever change.

    I 100% agree that we never truly stop questioning our purpose. But I think that it's perfectly okay. We question because we care. To some extent I also feel like our purpose find us along the way, as we "do life". I'm sure you'll find yours, and who's to say it will be just one. It could be many things that fulfil you at various points in your life. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where your journey takes you and am grateful that I get to be a small part of this journey.

    Again, thank you for allowing us into your world, just as Astrid Lindgren has done with so many minds 🤩

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭
  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin

    @Gayatri Ramachandran @Isurika Sevwandi + 1 Enid Blyton fan! 🤩

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Thank you so much for saying that @Gayatri Ramachandran ! Yes, I couldn't agree more. She really has influenced me and I think her story has really resonated with me in all times of my life and that is why I find her so inspiring. I am glad you enjoyed my kind of story telling as well. 😊

    Wow, how beautiful it is that your daughter can already grasp the essence of purpose. That is wonderful. I love that you make it a conversation with your daughter as well. It is not easy to make something so complicated a topic, so kudos on you for that one! It really tells me that you are such a caring mom. 💛

    And yes, I really hope we all get at least one day this year where we can huddle up and enjoy reading a huge book like that. It would mean a lot to our souls. 📚

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Enid Blyton!! Such wonderful books @Isurika Sevwandi! I am so happy this post inspired you to a certain extent to think about which author has inspired you in your life, so beautiful. Isn't it surprising how big of an influence children's books can have on us?

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Thank you so much for calling me a storyteller @Andrea Hayward . It's something I always wanted to be so it makes me very happy to read this.

    Astrid Lindgren really is such a versatile persona and there is so much to read about her. Even though I have been up and down countless biographies and documentaries about her from as long as I can remember, there is still so much more I want to know. I definitely recommend the movie "Becoming Astrid" (2018) which is only about a short part of her life but very well worth a watch. 🎞

    Astrid Lindgren also has detective stories called "Kalle Blomquist". I think detective stories are such intriguing plot lines to follow as a kid. 🕵️

    Oh my god, yes! She was the epitome of "before her time". When no one would ask her to dance for dancing lessons, she would just dance by herself! How independent is that?

    Oh yes, children's literature should definitely be quirky and over the top. And that's what makes them so intriguing over time. 😊

    "We question because we care". I needed this so much. Thank you so much for saying this. That last paragraph of yours made me become all emotional. 🥺 Your excitement for my journey really gave me the boost of motivation that I needed on this low-energy Monday.

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    Indeed @Vivien Kretz and @Isurika Sevwandi . I hope our wishes together come true this year- may we all be blessed with that one day when we can forget everything around us and get absorbed in that one book entirely, the whole day, with someone bringing food and tea/coffee to us so we needn't get up even for that. Seems like a dream but fervently hope it comes true!

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    You mentioned "Nancy Drews" that stirred the "Hardy Boys"fan in me @Andrea Hayward 😁. An like @Vivien Kretz mentioned-there is no better memory of books than childhood and children's literature🧚‍♀️. Despite all the fiction, philosophy and sci-fi in adulthood, nothing can match those days of dreaming of elves, goblins, adventure and the wondrous fantasy that children's literature gifted us!! Thank you Vivien for bringing those childhood moments alive through this post and filling our hearts with fond memories❤️

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    Of course, @Vivien Kretz I don't have enough words to describe how much I enjoyed reading children's books during my childhood. I thoroughly enjoyed it and you know what? Books were the only gift item I used to ask for when I was schooling and for every subject, I got the highest marks, for every victory I made by competing with others, my only wish was to receive more books so I can dive deeper into a fantasy world with fictional characters and I loved it a lot. I also believe that we acquire the characteristics of those fictional characters which we tend to love as kids and try to mimic their behavior or follow their path. It has a lifelong impact on many kids.

  • Isurika Sevwandi
    Isurika Sevwandi Member Posts: 120 ✭✭✭✭

    Yay! Me too badly want that moment of "satisfaction" where I can totally dive into the book forgetting everything surrounding me @Gayatri Ramachandran 🤩 Even that feeling it comforting me 😍

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭
    edited March 15

    Yes! I have already added "book worm day" to my bucket list for 2022. 😊


    I am so happy to have revived the thoughts on the literature of your childhood days @Gayatri Ramachandran.

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    Wow, I love that you kept asking for books as girl @Isurika Sevwandi ! You were already sophisticated back then hihi ☺️ What I love about books is that there is so much variety. You can delve into a fiction story as a form of escapism but also read about brain functions for fun. Exactly, what we read as children has a huge impact on us and that is why I am happy that so many wonderful pieces of Children's literature exist.

  • Jayashree Rajagopalan
    Jayashree Rajagopalan Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 319 admin


    OMG @Vivien Kretz I just got goosebumps when I read this post. First of all, THANK YOU for spelling this out...handing out roses does not serve as validation nor does it assuage any wounds. There's so much to understand and share as a woman, so much complexity, and the sheer weight of years of complicated history and politics! Sometimes I wonder how, while surviving in the metaculture, a woman's mind doesn't explode or even implode. Sometimes I know I feel like mine will! Why I got goosebumps - because of the references you shared and because of your story. I studied and did some research in the field of Children's Literature and experienced every emotion you have described here. That's the shortest way for me to express this. I can relate to your own journey and narrate some really weird things I've heard over the years because I chose the Humanities and I chose a creative path. It was always polar perspectives (never a spectrum) - Either I ought to be good with children or know how to raise them well because I studied something that would make me a good mother (what the heck) OR I've never done anything serious enough, even though I got published, wrote a thesis, got an Outstanding grade, got offered a PhD...it was the Humanities and with a focus on writing and creative thinking - how could THAT be cool. I dealt with both opinions so often that I chose aggressive verbal defense or complete silence as a retort. Also, I've read some of Astrid Lindgren's work during a comparative world literature for children project. The narratives were very interesting and different, in my view. 😀 Thanks for this post. I went down the memory lane again and found your response to your fav. author very inspiring.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin

    @Vivien Kretz glad my comment could add some magic to your Monday. You deserve every brilliant opportunity and success coming your way 🤗

    Thanks for the movie suggestion! I love watching biopics so I'll add to this to my long list of biopics I haven't watched yet but want to watch.

  • Andrea Hayward
    Andrea Hayward Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 943 admin
    edited March 16

    @Gayatri Ramachandran I loved stories with elves, goblins, and main characters sitting on bright colored toadstools (just because they could) 😄 Since we started talking on this thread, I've also been thinking about one of my favorite Beatrix Potter books! Oh to be one of the Flopsy Bunnies 😄

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    I am so glad to read your comment @Jayashree Rajagopalan . I am so happy you agree with me- Because exactly: the roses do really do IWD ANY justice. I wish there were more opportunities to raise voice during the time before and after International Women’s Day.

    Omg yes, I feel the same- especially the “implode” part struck a chord with me. The weight of expectations sometimes is just too heavy to shake.

    You don’t know how much it means to read that you share feelings with me in terms of choosing the humanities. These days, as everyone is brushing up their LinkedIn profiles around me, I wonder how I can keep up. It is terrible that people were so disrespectful when approaching you- You didn’t do anything serious enough? What on earth? Especially the fact that they would connect it to your motherly abilities sounds like absolute madness to me.

    I am so sad that we still have to fight this fight every day. Currently, I choose to just tell people that I study an easy major that I would like to see them make scientific research regarding a reality show. And at the end of the day, most of them have no clue how to do that.

    However, 99 percent it really is not worth arguing. Some people’s respect can never be earned and that tells me one thing: that I don’t care about their respect. Because every kind of work deserves to be validated.

    Wow, I could go on forever and ever about this. Thank you so much for making it a conversation. You really made me feel less alone and impacted my day in such a positive way.

  • Vivien Kretz
    Vivien Kretz Member Posts: 283 ✭✭✭

    You definitely did add magic into my day! 😊

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    Ditto. Identical expectations I had had, whenever I won prizes at school and was I not full of glee that they were always fulfilled!😍 @Isurika Sevwandi. I wouldn't wait a second to tear open the wrapping and check out the bundle😁

  • Gayatri Ramachandran
    Gayatri Ramachandran Member Posts: 237 ✭✭✭

    I keep getting to hear a lot of these polarised thinking exactly in the same lines as you have mentioned @Jayashree Rajagopalan, from friends and family in humanities. Though that perspective is not at all true, you humanities graduates are definitely way more cool than us science guys coz you get to LIVE a life man! We hardly get to breathe. I had this opinion way back in my under-graduation and often felt jealous about them (this is ENOUGH for you to get non-polar I guess😂). Specially more so when my sis completed her PhD in humanities in 3yrs flat, while we science sapiens (coz we are not Homo in that way) keep dredging along for say 6-7 years? The heights of all this is, they get to earn the same fellowship as us with little or no travel to the department or benchwork or the works you know! Phew, did I just rant?!😅