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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My Career

It comes to my attention that I don't really have the drive to write on the blog as much these days. It may be a seasonal slump, or perhaps I was using the blog as a sort of hobby for myself--journaling my emotions and thoughts as they came, writing when bored. But I'm so distracted with establishing our new lives here in Vero that I have forgotten to document some of those very exciting and conflicting emotions. I am, of course, missing the familiarity of things in Key West. Building new relationships takes time and effort, and it was just an easy part of our lives before...

But overall, it's just peace, excitement, even unbelief that we're actually on our own, in our own space. I am so blessed, I am careful to give God credit for His blessings, and yet, like most humans, I can find myself feeling insecure about who I am, and exactly what I'm giving back. The following post is a little glimpse into my mind and heart concerning my role and my "career", which is defined by the Oxford Dictionary of American English as: "a job or profession for which you are trained and which you do for a long time, often with the chance to move to a higher position." I don't know about the last part, there aren't too many chances of advancement in this position, unless adding children to your family would be the advancement, the more children you have the more responsibility. Or is advancing as a mother called becoming a grandmother? :)

End of summer is an exciting time of year for most people. Lots of teachers and admins are going back to work after a brief break for summer, people are preplanning their tailgating parties, students, moms and dads, are prepping to start new schedules, meet new teachers, join new classes, and so on. 
In Greek life, this is the time of year when thousands of potential new members go through what was previously known as "rush", but now formally called "recruitment". Young women in college, for a variety of reasons, are checking out their sorority options, looking for the right fit.  It is emotionally draining on all ends. This time of year, specifically this week, brings back many memories of my own collegiate sorority experience.  The excitement and stress all culminate on Bid Day, where each new sorority girl opens her envelope to see which chapter has offered her a bid to join. Then those same stressed out girls literally RUN down Greek row, to embrace their new sisters. It is amusing that they really do jump on and hug each other as though they'd been separated at birth. As a new sister, you're just ecstatic for it to be over, and for the most part, the girls get in to a chapter they really liked. As a vet sister, you are also thrilled that the stressful recruitment week is over, but you are also aware that these new sisters will be the future of your chapter, and you are ready to welcome the newbies on to the team, always hoping for new leaders, new intellects, and new friendships.

So when I see on Facebook that recruitment has started across the country, I am sincerely excited for all of them. These young women will become leaders in their colleges, in their communities, in their cities, in our government, and in the world. But I also remind myself that those leaders will look very different, depending on their decisions in the future. Some will be leaders at the podium, in the courtroom, in the classroom, in the hospitals, in the boardroom. But others, like myself, will become leaders in their home and family without a paid job on the side. This type of leader doesn't have the same air of significance and success attached as that of an employed leader, but still some choose it.

At a sisterhood event while in college, my sorority went to see a movie together. It was called Mona Lisa Smile, and I smile at the foreshadowing of that event. We, college women, were watching a movie about college women, struggling to break the molds of what womanhood meant, all of us unsure of what the future would hold, but determined to be trailblazers and mold-breakers. The movie was set in the 1950's, a time when women were expected to fill certain roles, with little room to advance in an occupation without criticism on all sides. But there was a brilliant scene in which the perspective was changed, and another alternative image of what true, unprejudiced choice looked like.  The scene is below, as Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts), the progressive teacher at the all-girls college, tries desperately near the end of the movie to convince the promising student Joan(Julia Stiles) to attend law school after graduation, instead of only getting married and starting a family.

Katherine Watson:  "There are seven law schools within 45 minutes of Philadelphia. You can study and get dinner on the table by 5:00.
Joan Brandwyn: It's too late.
Katherine Watson: No, some of them accept late admissions! Now, I was upset at first, I can tell you that. When Tommy came to me at the dance and told me he was accepted to Penn, I thought, 'Oh God, her fate is sealed! She's worked so hard, how can she throw it all away?' But then I realized you won't have to! You can bake your cake and eat it too! It's just wonderful!
Joan Brandwyn: We're married. We eloped over the weekend. Turned out he was petrified of a big ceremony, so we did a sort of spur-of-the-moment thing. Very romantic.
[Katherine is stunned]
Joan Brandwyn: It was my choice, not to go. He would have supported it.
Katherine Watson: But you don't have to choose!
Joan Brandwyn: No, I have to. I want a home, I want a family! That's not something I'll sacrifice.
Katherine Watson: No one's asking you to sacrifice that, Joan. I just want you to understand that you can do both.
Joan Brandwyn: Do you think I'll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?
Katherine Watson: Yes, I'm afraid that you will.
Joan Brandwyn: Not as much as I'd regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I'm doing and it doesn't make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.
Katherine Watson: I didn't say that.
Joan Brandwyn: Sure you did. You always do. You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image, but you don't. To you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a center hall colonial. She has no depth, no intellect, no interests. You're the one who said I could do anything I wanted. This is what I want."

Katherine was right. It IS a great sacrifice to be a stay-at-home mom, to be a wife and claim "mother" as a career. For some it is too great. Others simply can't stay home, such as single moms or those with financial burdens too great to carry on one income. I count myself blessed to have the choice.  And I can admit to feelings of squandering my potential in the workforce by staying at home--an ugly feeling of shame sometimes rears its head when I am surrounded by others my age who have already accomplished many things in their fields.  But I love to think of Joan in Mona Lisa's Smile at times like that. The alternative, to go to work, drop our children off at daycare, pick them up at 5:30, rush home to prepare a dinner and then put them to bed,  would be a bigger dose of regret for me.

Joan Brandwyn played by Julia Stiles
Today there aren't as many stay-at-home moms. It is more popular for women to try and do it all-- build a career, and build a home. But simple math says you can't give 100% of yourself everywhere. And when I feel a pang of pity for myself (that my colleagues are all under 7 years old or imaginary, that my intellectual conversations reach their peak at "Mommy where do squirrels go when they die?", that Mr.Clean is my immediate supervisor)  I remind myself of Joan. I know exactly what I'm doing, and it doesn't make me any less smart. I have depth, I am still an intellect, and I have interests beyond myself. And then I finish strong, and say to the mirror, "You is smart, you is kind, you is important."

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