There was a time when I spent six months impersonating Dagny Taggart, a character, from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I had not long left school and was living in Wellington, a trainee money broker in a dealing room, cavorting with the big boys. Twenty-five men in suits, and me.
At a time when I was looking for strong female role models and an understanding of how the world could work, someone told me to read Atlas Shrugged. I respected them enough to spend a couple of days trawling through second-hand book shops, looking for an old novel not yet reprinted.
I found it, devoured it and became Dagny Taggart for a time. So much so, I think back and smile at the occasions late at night in smoky bars, when I introduced myself as Dagny. I had been waiting all my teenage years for this illumination of what a woman could be.
In my heart, as I slipped into my Dagny persona, I could be strong, astute and opinionated. In Ayn Rand’s writing I found a way of being where women could be powerful, without using sex or manipulation. A brutal honesty I hungered for, rather than the eye candy expectation that was the norm. Brought up on a farm and having spent years in an all-girls boarding school, Dagny was the first of many women who would give me permission to be me.
There are a few people in my life, I wish for many more, who speak their mind, not aggressively, nor righteously, and never at the expense of someone else. With a certainty of knowing who they are and what they have to say doesn’t need to be right or brilliant, that it’s ok to have an opinion, a belief – that is their own.
I am attracted to these pillars of fearlessness – drawn to them like a groupie, a disciple at the feet of Jesus – wanting to shelter in the comfort of their strength.
“You don’t have to see through the eyes of others, hold onto yours, stand on your own judgment, you know that what is, is–say it aloud, like the holiest of prayers, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Dagny Taggart, from Atlas Shrugged.