All the world’s a stage and we are but actors on it. Consider Shakespeare’s words in the context of a recent commencement speech given by professional actress Mindy Kaling. In the speech, she delivers pro-life talking points. You may not be familiar with Kaling, most famous from her role in The Office. If you are familiar with her, you’ll know she’s not on even the long list of spokespeople for the next March for Life. Yet the serious portions of her speech sound pro-life. Let me explain why.
It’s at the very end of her 20-minute speech that she gets more serious. She talks about the ambitious checklists she had for her life. In college, she achieved her checklist, but she goes on to say this about life after college:
“I made a new checklist for my twenties: get married by 27, have kids at 30, win an Oscar, be the star of my own TV show, host the MTV Music Awards (this was 2001, guys; it made more sense then), and do it all while being a size 2. Well, spoiler alert: I’ve only done one of those things, and I’m not sure I will ever do the others. And that is a really scary feeling. Knowing how far that I’ve strayed from the person that I was hoping to be when I was 21.”
This is when the pro-life spokeswoman in me starts listening more closely.
She goes on to describe bringing her daughter home for the first time, without a husband or mother in the picture (Wikipedia reveals the public doesn’t know who the baby’s father is, and Kaling’s mom passed away in 2012).
“For a moment, it was kind of scary. Like, ‘Can I do this by myself?’ But then, that feeling went away, because the reality is, I’m not doing it by myself. I’m surrounded by family and friends who love and support me. And the joy I feel from being with my daughter Katherine eclipses anything from any crazy checklist. So, I just want to tell you guys, don’t be scared if you don’t do things in the right order, or if you don’t do some things at all.…If I could impart any advice, it’s this: If you have a checklist, good for you. Structured ambition can sometimes be motivating. But also, feel free to let it go.”
When I think pro-life talking points, I think freedom; the freedom to live a life that is not scripted or part of a checklist because even an unwanted pregnancy can become wanted. The world is filled with women, who moved from weeping at the sign of two lines on a stick to joy at the birth of their children.
I think of freedom because being pro-life opens doors instead of closing them. Over the course of a lifetime, you will work. Guaranteed. And it’s also highly likely you’ll work on jobs that are fulfilling and meaningful, if you set your mind to it. Having a baby doesn’t change that. However, in choosing life for a baby, you’ve opened the door to family—which ranks as one of those things that creates happiness and meaning in human existence. Freedom means that doors open instead of close.
I think freedom because you don’t play by the rules of some checklist that will get messy regardless (I was once convinced I should become an architect).
“Structured ambition” is great; it sets our vision and motivation higher. But when the structure breaks down, as it does so often, then a spirit of adventure should rightly enter in.
(As a side note, the existing “structure” today is not terribly fair to women, and I’m not talking about the purported pay gap. I’m talking about a new norm of informal sexual encounters that men and women experience unevenly. A woman can find herself with a decision to make with lifelong consequences either which way—abortion, adoption or parenting—when all she wanted was love. And so it should also be for men, who are fathers from the moment of conception, but in one of life’s greatest un-acknowledged gender inequities, we don’t expect this of men anymore.)
That Shakespearian drama quote actually reads:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.
One women in her time plays many parts. This is at least part of what it means to be pro-life. To paraphrase Kaling: The joy you’ll feel from being with your child will eclipse anything from any crazy checklist. Were truer words ever spoken by a Hollywood star?
Convivium means living together. We welcome your voice to the conversation. Do you know someone who would enjoy this article? Send it to them now. Do you have a response to something we've published? Let us know!