I grew up with a very blue collar upbringing, which is not to say that I was lacking for anything. I say that with pride, in fact. Both of my parents worked very hard, they worked with their hands, and they wore jeans. I know that sounds weird, but you get my point. I didn't come from a family of suit-wearers. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. We had two family businesses that my folks ran like champs, and my brother and I got to witness hard work front and center, every day. It wasn't always dignified and it certainly wasn't often fun, but it was invaluable and deeply ingrained in me a work ethic that I appreciate more and more with every new job and life lesson I see play out.
That being said, it was recently that I had one of those self-reflecting moments where I felt like I had finally arrived, career-wise. It couldn't have been more than a year ago, and I don't even remember the exact moment it dawned on me, but I came to the realization that I had made it.
I was in Colorado for one of my monthly visits to the headquarters of the start-up for which I worked. I looked up for a second and took in the sight of this little girl, looking very grown up and very polished. My nails were manicured, my venti Starbucks was in hand, my handbag was chic, my outfit was a tasteful mix of tailored blazer and hemmed denim, and I walked with the confidence of a young woman who fully owned her VP title. In some ways, I felt like I was playing dress up, but when I attended subsequent meetings and unabashedly shared my two cents on the matter and helped mold our collective company, it was clear that I was actually contributing something. My voice mattered, and I was someone who people many years my senior were trusting to own my job fully.
A Shift in Perspective with my Morning Cup
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago when I got a fresh dose of perspective. I walked across the street to the Starbucks from the hourly writing gig that I took mid-summer to earn some form of income in the wake of the official news that our start-up had stalled out. As much as I enjoyed tackling a new post as web copywriter, it was a total lifestyle shift for me. I went from working out of my home (when not in Colorado) to working in an office again; I went from an impressive salary to a wage that I made circa post-college graduation; I went from dressing like an executive to dressing like a college student (which, to be fair, wasn't all bad on the mornings that I felt too pregnant to muster more than jeans and a t-shirt). I'm less complaining and more so trying to convey that it has been a far bigger shift than I think I've really processed. But life happens, and bills need to be paid, so there you go.
Back to the coffee shop...
I'm waiting for my venti coconut milk latte at the counter at Starbucks -- and I'll mention that it was a venti only because it was the one morning out of the month on which a local bank covers coffee orders for all the local folks who work in the area, which is decidedly awesome and one of my favorite days of the month -- when I looked over and saw a young woman, looking ever so chic and professional, about my same age. She was wearing a beautiful sheath dress under a stylish blazer, simple jewelry, a tasteful ponytail, and her hands were beautifully manicured in a soft pink. We briefly made eye contact, and for a moment, I wanted to cry.
The very next moment, however, I smiled and let it soak in. I fully immersed myself in the reality of where I was, where I had been, and where I was going. There I was, 8+ months pregnant, waiting for my free coffee with far too much excitement, and realizing that a new season was upon me.
A Season for Everything...
My arrival as a career woman -- or at least my perception of such -- had come and gone, and here I am on the cusp of...gosh, I hardly know. I imagine it'll consist of sleepless nights, sweatpants, sippy cups, and a ridiculous amount of time spent staring at a tiny human.
I'd love to tell you that I've only looked forward with excitement and joy, but that wouldn't be the whole truth. I mean, it's absolutely true that I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to get to be Mommy to this Baby Boy, to M's son. But I've also looked back at the past -- near as it may be, relatively speaking -- and I'm mourning a bit. There's nothing to say that I'll never again dress nice, travel, or have a career-type role, but I have to imagine it will come with race cars stuffed into my Louis Vuitton, shorter nails so I don't scratch at bath time, and holding back tears as I try to enjoy being wined-and-dined because I'm away from my child(ren).
Because here's the thing: we can't have it all. We can't do all the things because we're split as women. Split between being a good wife, a good mom, a good colleague...and any one of those roles is a full-time gig. I'm not saying in the slightest that men don't also have these seasons of change and identity-crises, but I do know what it is to be a woman who just wants to do it all. And I can't.
And you know what? That's just going to have to be OK.