On January 2nd of this year, I wrote my intention: “BE HERE NOW. Being here and being present means feeling alive in my own skin because I’m aware – painfully aware of my body, my feelings and emotions, and my truth instead of falling victim to my fears and stories.”
This past year, I did what I could day-to-day to ground myself in the present. I worked out when I felt my mind spiraling; I buckled down and worked hard when I got into a flow; I took Fridays off for day dates with Andy; I drew pictures of ice cream, played kitchen, and towed Amaya around in her wagon; I set dates to connect with friends; and I prioritized time with family (which meant monthly 3 hour car rides to Houston).
Being present and in tune with myself led to some authentic conversations this year where I openly declared my needs and my values. I sat down with my director who offered me the choice to continue working on my current team or switch to cover an emerging product managed by a team in Tokyo; this would mean more trips overseas and late night meetings due to the time difference. This change could also mean more leadership and visibility for me. I witnessed another colleague (a mom of a toddler) make this change, and while she has successfully transitioned into her new norm and enjoys it, I came to the conclusion this move wasn’t in my or my family’s best interest at this time. My former self would have relished the opportunity to travel and gain visibility; my former self would have also struggled with guilt in making the ever-present tradeoffs between work and family. But I confidently looked my director in the eyes and told her I wanted to focus on Amaya and didn’t want to consistently be pulled away for trips and meetings. She told me she understood and respected my decision. I also knew that she had taken a few years off work to stay home with her two young kids until they entered Kindergarten. I walked away from that conversation feeling seen and heard and grateful.
I’ve been telling nearly every woman, mom, friend, and person who will listen about a book I’m reading called The Ambition Decision. The authors survey women from their sorority and analyzes their career trajectories and approach to “ambition” over time – as they move through major life phases such as motherhood. The women all fit into one of three categories: high achiever, opt-outer, or life flexer, and they often move fluidly through these stages over the years. [High achievers are characterized by fast-track careers often balanced out by stay-at-home partners or hired help and fewer children; opt-outers choose to stay at home with their kids and find fulfillment through other means such as serving on non-profit boards or getting involved in the PTA; life flexers deliberately make career decisions to allow for flexible hours and life balance and generally have partners who share financial and household responsibilities to make a dual-career household function.]
This book has empowered me to look at my present situation with a new lens. It doesn’t push the ambitious message of “lean in” or the out-of-touch battle cry that “women CAN have it all.” For me, it simply shows through real-life stories and research that life is made up of tons of micro-decisions that can redefine and re-channel my natural sense of ambition toward my current situation – presently, a working woman who enjoys her job, loves spending time with her family, and also wants to fuel her body and soul with a good workout and dinners with girlfriends. Right now for all of this to be true, I choose a job stability, reliable income, and a work culture that promotes flexible hours and trust.
So in light of the last day of the year and a feedback practice I enjoy, I want to share my memorable moments and lessons learned from 2018 through a practiced called Start. Stop. Continue. And I’ll do it backwards:
- Showing up, speaking up, and listening
- Getting down on the floor and playing
- Laughing with my fully belly
- Having authentic conversations
- Being vulnerable
- Practicing my values and assessing my needs
- Daily rituals such as writing in my gratitude journal
- Doing things that make me happy like eating ice cream, getting outside, and day dates with Andy
- Doing a million chores at one time and prioritize the few things that matter
- Putting my self (working out, taking a night off to meet up friends) 3rd on the list after child and marriage
- Complaining if I can be the change and make a difference
- Striving for perfection and missing opportunities to move fast, learn and grow
- Framing things as a “miss” and reframing them as opportunities
- Scrolling through social media (ugh need to re-delete some apps again)
- Doing things out of obligation that don’t bring me joy
Start (I intentionally made this short):
- Commit to 1 extended health goal for this year (to be clearly defined soon!)
- Take a solo trip (without Andy and Amaya but prob with a friend)
- Document family stories for posterity
And for a super fast recap of the most memorable moments of 2018: trips to NYC and Tokyo, Amaya and Camila riding bikes and picking acorns, Allie BEAT CANCER, Amaya spending time with grandparents, winning the marketing award at work, Amaya sharing her balloon with a boy who let his fly away, Friday day dates with Andy, morning cuddles in bed, playdates with all of Amaya’s buddies (Gavin, Penny, Cody, Alex, Olive, Poppy, JT, and Annie), celebrating birthdays (Amaya’s donut party!), pregnancy announcements, births of new babies, losing our furbaby Terri, Mi and Jason’s wedding (and getting tipsy and karaoke and Whataburger), ATX holiday party and being hungover the entire next day, family photoshoot, Christmas lights and carols and witnessing all the magic of the holidays through Amaya’s eyes, long roadtrips to Houston (some including a carsick kiddo), spending time with family. I’m beyond grateful.
Cheers to 2019!