Recently, I mentioned struggling for blog topics. One of my readers suggested replaying blog posts from when I first started writing Middle Passages. No one was reading me then, so the old posts would be new to my current readers. I hadn't given the idea a lot of thought...but then, the same person who offered the suggestion, did something brave yesterday that resonated in me. It also reminded me of this blog post, which I wrote in 2009, not to long after my "life altering" job elimination. So, you all are getting a golden oldie (albeit an unread one), in honor of Robin. (Yes, V-log girl, this is for you.)
In a phone conversation with a friend the other day in which I sought her gardening advice, she finished her description of mixing manure and peat moss with the following comment: "Be brave."
"Be brave?" I thought. In the garden, I can be brave, but in the rest of my life it’s a struggle.I hung up pondering her comment. Am I brave? As a lifeguard, I saved an exchange student who, unable to swim, also couldn’t read a sign and stepped over a drop off. Even though I got paid for it, maybe that was brave? After college, I visited my sister and traveled around Australia. That only gets a “sort of brave” because she was a lifeline. It was brave, I suppose, to go through a semi-open adoption process which resulted in the arrival of our beautiful daughter--and I know I was brave when I initiated an in-person meeting with her birth family a few years ago.
Career-wise though, brave has never been a modifier I’d use to describe myself. To some degree complacent might fit, but that’s harsh. Perhaps "safe" would work better. I damn myself by saying this, but there is an explanation. While it was important to me to do my best job, my employment has always taken a back seat to my family. We needed the income, so working was non-negotiable. Every paycheck arrived though, attached to a gut wrenching tug of war, because I was not with our daughter. But I was good at my job and stayed at it because I could do it while maintaining a strong focus on her. Somehow, in spite of the endless pulling and pushing, I managed to be successful at both. But I was never brave enough to determine what I really wanted in a job, because leaving my employer might have meant tipping the scales from the balance I’d constructed.
It seems that many women my age, those of us who were young in the sixties and seventies, were raised with traditional mothers as role models. Somewhere in our teens or so, the woman’s movement became big and suddenly, doors opened. Yet for many of us, our formative years instructed us in different career aspirations, so there was confusion as to how to step through.
I walk with women who are from the same generation and it seems that whether we are home or working, we lack confidence in our roles. Mostly I think though, that we are all brave in minor ways for which we don’t give ourselves credit. One friend thinks she should have been a teacher, but didn’t have the financial resources to go back to school while she was raising her family. She adopted three children, traveling to Columbia and the Philippines to bring two of them home. She’s brave. These days, when the phone calls come, she substitute teaches. That’s really brave. Another friend stopped working outside the home when her son arrived. Because she wants to write but is lacking the confidence to submit her work, she has joined the garden club and agreed to write their newsletter, which in my mind is brave. Yet another friend is like me. She’s my age, worked the same amount time for her employer, grew organically in her career and got laid off. She’s in the process of networking and finding a new career. That’s being brave.
One day at work, when my daughter was sick and I was worried about not being with her, a woman I admire said: “Think of the role models we are creating for our children. Our daughters and sons will grow up knowing woman will work, that they can successfully raise a family while challenging their minds and contributing income.” Perhaps going to work everyday was brave.
I think my girl will be braver than me, but until I know that for sure, I need to set an example for her to make certain she grows up with the confidence to pursue her own goals. To that end, I’m going have to muster up my self-assurance and start some dedicated networking out there soon, making sure to land on a job that I’ll love.
In the meantime, I’m sitting here each day writing this blog and putting it out into cyberspace for anyone to read. And, because it’s not something that you’d necessarily stumble upon out there in the Web, I’m telling people about it too. That’s either brave or insane. I’ll leave that judgment up to you.