Pursuing Your Dreams, Against The Grain

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Every so often, here on Girl Gone Travel, I like to share a personal story or two to remind people that the person sharing stories on travel and food, beautiful hotels and retreats, is a real person who experienced some really harsh moments, all of which pushed her to where you find her today.

And lately I have been thinking a lot about where I am today, in my career especially, because conversations on how women can have better control of their destinies and goals are rampant – because women who seem to have these things are talking about it and writing books and appearing on talk shows and saying all the things that we women say to ourselves, many times.

I sit back now, in my 40s, somewhat over weight, with 3 kids and two marriages under my belt, a few years of corporate experience and an MBA that led to nothing more than an assertion that I should be included in one conversation or another – watching it all unfold, as if pieces of my life are replaying themselves before me.

“Work harder!’ “Hold your head up high with the assertion that you deserve to be here – get that job – be rewarded!” “Don’t settle for less!” “They won’t see you coming, because you’re a girl, but show them, just show them what you’re all about!” “Don’t let anyone define you/limit you/hold you back/turn you away!” “You can and YOU WILL have your cake and eat it too!”

Those are the messages my mind yelled at me almost every morning I dressed for my corporate jobs and headed out to work for bosses who didn’t really think much of me because I was a young 20-something at one point and at another, I was a single mom.

I worked for a manager who seemed surprised to learn I had completed college and made me prove it by showing him my original diploma. I dealt with bosses who sexually harassed me, and discriminated against me because of my race. I dealt with being fired for taking too much time off for dealing with a child who on the same day of my being laid off would be hospitalized (I never sued because in exchange they offered me 6 month health insurance coverage – which they knew I needed. Lawyers, what can I say!). I worked for female executives who demanded more than they gave, and failed to lead by example. I dealt with working long hours for no extra money and doing jobs that were above my salary or title to show I could. I dealt with long commutes and insults and trial by fire and walking into rooms like I owned them, making demands, asserting my worth, taking a stance, pushing my kid aside on a sitter who would label me a bad mother. I missed years of my children’s lives and cried many nights over it. I was once the person who worked till the bitter end in my pregnancy, then held a team meeting to delegate projects while sitting behind my desk as amniotic fluid streamed out from between my legs. I did it all.

Then one day, I said “F*ck it” and I walked away.

I spent more than half my life screaming to the world that I was worth it and walking around having something to prove and I can’t remember when or how, but one day I woke up and it didn’t matter anymore.

Some may say that it’s easy for me because I have a husband now, who “supports” me. Truth is, we struggled financially for a long time and are only now – almost 5 years later – feeling our heads above water. We struggled and worried and stressed and barely had enough to eat at times – but we made a choice, in a way that worked for our family, our children, and ourselves.

Coming out of that zone, that need to show I was somebody, wasn’t easy. Even as a blogger I continued to fight and have something to prove, and even that got old.

And it wasn’t that I quit. Nor that I lost my sense of focus, ambition, or drive. Or that I got lazy or tired or discontent or frustrated – ok, well, maybe a little frustrated for sure, but I didn’t leave it all because I have nothing left to give, but because I felt that where I was giving it didn’t deserve it.

If we focus on the economics of things, financially I make as much as my first job out of high school – which I realize that in blogging can be pretty good. But, though that mattered so much in my corporate life, here it’s not as significant as the other ways in which my life has been transformed. I am incredibly happy and at peace. I have days where I am showered with deadlines, but they are all from jobs I chose and incorporate without sacrificing my values, my family, my health, my self-worth, my pride, my well-being, my happiness, or my passions.

Women and girls need to hear the positive words of encouragement and empowerment. We need to be reminded that we can do anything we set our minds to. We need to be told over and over to not doubt ourselves, or second guess ourselves, to jump into the water, even if it looks cold, it will turn out alright. We need to be pushed to take risks and conquer our fears – not because we need to keep up with men, but because we are women and we can.

But I want to remind you that you can do any of those things and all those things anywhere. Your worth, success, capacity, ambition, intellect, resourcefulness, and power are not limited to those things measured in reviews, paid in salaries, or awarded in recognitions. Sometimes, the only one you will have to remind you that it is all worth it and that it is all good is yourself. You are no less valuable being home with your family than sitting in a corporate meeting room.

How you pursue your joy is not something someone else can determine for you, no matter what path you choose, just aim to be happy as much as you possibly can. Enjoy this life you are given and remember to take time to share it with those who matter most. If it’s your boss and coworkers, great. If it’s your children, dog, or partner, that’s great too. Just remember, it’s not worth anything if you aren’t happy in the process. Decide what really matters to you and follow your heart. If it’s against the grain, more power to you, that takes more courage and determination than going with the flow.

In the end, I chose to ignore the warnings and threats of being cast out. I chose to step off the wheel and I did it my way. I listened to my heart, I took a chance, and I’ve never been happier.



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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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32 Responses to Pursuing Your Dreams, Against The Grain

  1. Elena says:

    Love this Carol– so very much. It is fascinating to me to hear about the stories that brought so many of us to where we are now…the diversity of the experiences and yet the same passion and drive to follow that dream. I started realizing my dream nine months ago, and tomorrow am actually starting on a new, mini adventure that will keep this dream afloat…hopefully still keeping me on the path to achieve my goals, but also giving our family a bit of extra financial security that honestly- we need in the long run. You are always so inspiring and such a mentor to many– thanks for the reminder that each of us takes our own path.

    • Carol Cain says:

      @Elena: Thanks so much Elena! I am so happy to hear about your new ventures and growing success! Thanks again for reading and for your support : )

  2. Thanks for this, Carol. I know that, as a blogger, you put much of your heart out there, not always knowing where it lands or who it touches, so I just wanted to let you know that I hear you and thank you. I needed this reminder today. Abrazos, amiga.

  3. Darlene says:


    Your words and encouragement means a lot to this writer you've decided to take the freelance plunge. Thank you.

  4. Quiana says:

    There are so many reason why I love this post! It's not just a "blogger's" post either – I believe it can be appreciated by all women. Thank you for lifting the veil and sharing your reality.

    • Carol Cain says:

      @Quiana: Thank you so much for reading Quiana, and your right, it doesn’t matter what you do in your life, this message applies. : )

  5. Kita says:

    This right here is so inspiring and one of the reasons I started my online magazine so that we can hear stories like this and become inspired. Thank you for sharing.

  6. This is fantastic. I so appreciate this perspective,

    especially now with all the other "women should" noise

    that's coming at us. Thanks for giving us permission to

    just be who we are!

    • Carol Cain says:

      @Cristie Ritz King: Thank you Christie. It’s so easy to overlook the fact that while some message aim to encourage and motivate women they can also sometimes simultaneously discredit all the things women already do, which may not be as obvious, in their every day lives – which are just as important and valuable.

  7. Katie says:

    Carol, this is a great reminder and motivation for me. I am trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my life, and your story is so inspirational!

    • Carol Cain says:

      @Katie: Thanks so much Katie! I’m so glad to hear it. After having met you and seeing your drive and outgoing personality, I know that you will do well in whatever you set your mind to!

  8. Debra says:

    Carol you said it all when you wrote:

    "Women and girls need to hear the positive words of encouragement and empowerment. We need to be reminded that we can do anything we set our minds to. We need to be told over and over to not doubt ourselves, or second guess ourselves, to jump into the water, even if it looks cold, it will turn out alright. We need to be pushed to take risks and conquer our fears – not because we need to keep up with men, but because we are women and we can."

    I don't think there is any further need for explanation.

  9. I love this so much. Our backgrounds are different for sure – but I can relate so well to what you are saying and the feelings that accompany it. Beautifully written and lived, Carol 🙂 Travis and the boys are very lucky to have such a woman sharing their lives and helping to shape them. Lucky girls who will marry them too! :)!

  10. Erin says:

    After a hard couple of months at work and a lot of self-doubt about my career path, your words literally brought tears to my eyes. I haven't been reading this blog for very long, but you've definitely gained a loyal reader – you are an inspiration, thank you!

    • Carol Cain says:

      @Erin: Big, big hugs Erin! As you know, I can relate to the roller coaster of emotions you are feeling. Listen to your heart, go with your gut. I can't say that it isn't scary, but I can say that you won't regret at least giving it a go. oxoxox

  11. Jenn says:

    Carol, thank you so much for this. I can't say why, but it came just when I needed it. I needed- right now- for someone to remind me to follow my heart and do what brings me joy. I literally have tears streaming down my face. Sometimes it's as simple as being reminded to enjoy the life we have with those we share it with. Thank you!

    • Carol Cain says:

      @Jenn: Oh, Jenn. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am touched that my words meant so much and served such an important purpose. I wish you much joy.

  12. hungryfoodlove says:

    Carol this is great. I am on corporate america right now and not sure when I will make that transition. Reading your experience empowers me and many more in my situation. Thanks!

  13. LOVE this, Carol. It’s what most of us need to hear.

  14. Christina says:

    Love this and appreciate you for being one of the few to keep it real and write about it. As a mother who also works FT in the corp world the daily struggle, feelings of guilt and feeling of not doing enough/being enough are real. Thanks for the reminder & assurance that we don’t have to be super woman we just need to be open and happy 🙂

  15. travelwkate says:

    Bravo Carol. I love this. So upliftng. Over the past few months, you have quickly become someone from whom I receive inspiration and reassurance that I am also on the right path!

  16. Michelle says:

    You ROCK!! Thank you for this awesome reminder, this came at a perfect time for me 🙂 Michelle

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