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.