5 mins read

The Ones Before Us

I’ve talked before in my blog that I believe in a higher power, that, just when you think you can’t take another minute of bullshit, puts in your path an angel (or two) to remind you to stay present.  It just happened to me recently and I wanted to share it.

Let me start with the kind of day I was having.  I love my job and my career but I’m also human.  So there are days when I can’t stand it.  Those are usually the days when I really feel the fact that I am one of the few female executives at my company. I had a meeting with four other men and one of them completely cut down a project that I had worked really, really hard to make happen.  I sat there are felt my face get hot and tried so, so hard not to cry.  I bit the inside of my mouth really, really hard and miraculously I held it together and made it through the meeting.  

I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and went back to my office to get my shit together.  I berated myself for being so emotional, and for taking it so personally.  I looked at the pictures of my family and tried to focus on how much they love me, and the fact that they are proud of me.  I thought about the nearly 20 years that I have worked and all the mistakes and all the successes and tried to remind myself that I’m good at what I do.  And even with all that, I sat at my desk and cried.

That night, my partner held down the fort so I could hit up my favorite body-toning class that I love but don’t get to very often. I even got there about ten minutes early.  There were two other women also early, and immediately I felt a very friendly, warm vibe from them, which doesn’t really happen in LA (wink). They were women who could be 45 or 55, but have this happy, healthy glow-thing going on so I didn’t really know for sure except that they were older than me. I found their hearty laughs and self-deprecating humor welcoming.

They were talking and stretching and one, out of nowhere, tells a story about how her male boss called her five days after she had just given birth to her second baby and wanted to know when she is coming back to work – and threatened to fire her if she didn’t in the next two days.  Seriously!! Then she went on to say that this was more than 20 years ago!  The second woman then talked about how she had her first baby when she was in law school and a decade later, as a manager, always tried to respect when her employees, who were also moms, needed to address family emergencies like sick kids or school holidays.  At this point, I hadn’t said a word.  They had no idea of the day I’d just had.  And here they were, two women who lived through trying to work and be a mom and they are talking about it.

So, in my shock at the total relevancy of their conversation to my mental state, I found some words and said something like this:  I want you both to know that I’ve had a hard day today.  I’m a senior vice president and work really hard.  But more so, I am a great man’s wife and the mom of two amazing kids.  And today I am feeling really, really sorry for myself.  But right at this moment I am listening to you both I realize that there are millions of women, generations of them who came before me, who made it possible for me to have the opportunities that I have today, and instead of bitching about how hard it all is, I think you both have reminded me that I really should be grateful that I have any choices at all.

I’ll admit that for a minute they looked at me like I was crazy.  But then they both smiled and said some version of “hang in there.”  Then the class started and nobody talked because we were all sucking in oxygen. 

So right now I’m having a glass of wine and I would like to toast the ones who came before me.  The ones like my mom, and the woman who raised her.  And to all the others who created a world that let’s someone like me take for granted that I’ve had a tremendous career.  Thank you.

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