The first time I visited Maggie at Pink Shoes, I was in awe. She writes with such a down-to-earth honesty that I couldn’t stop reading. She takes photos that are absolutely gorgeous. Between the two, you can’t help but fall in love with her and her beautiful family. And then I read the story behind the name of her blog… and I was hooked. If Pink Shoes is not already on your must-read list, I urge you to read on and then go visit Maggie. You, too, will be in awe. I promise.
Maggie’s words here describe an experience I know so well. I admire the strength she summoned to let herself grow in this way and the honesty with which she shares what went into such an important decision.
When I was a senior in high school I didn’t get into the college I was dying to attend. When I was a freshman in college (at my second-choice school) my boyfriend who I’d left back home broke up with me and I spent much of the year depressed. After my husband and I had been married for a while we decided it was time to have kids; we endured ﬁve years of infertility treatments. When we threw in the towel on infertility treatments we decided to pursue domestic adoption; an open one. I experienced immense personal growth during all these moments and I could write line after line about each of them and why I am who I am today as a result.
But there is one moment, one decision, one fork in my road, that forced me to redeﬁne who I thought I was going to be, who I thought I already was, and who I’d dreamed of being. It was a blow to my ego and at the same time it couldn’t have felt more right…..once I got through it.
When my daughter was born in March of 2009 I was in my ninth year of teaching middle school history. I was obsessed with my job. I held various leadership positions at my school, I had been asked to present at a number of national conferences on education, I led corporate trainings for my school management company, and I loved my students and couldn’t wait to see them (most of them anyway) everyday. Work, and being good at it, was a natural high for me. It was my whole identity and I cared more about how I performed at work, received kudos for my work, collected more responsibility, and what I could do there than almost anything else.
But then, like I said, my daughter was born in March of 2009 and I felt torn about work for the ﬁrst time. I didn’t know if I wanted to work full-time in the same capacity that I’d been working with such a new baby, but I also needed to work to keep our household running. I was offered a part time position and happily accepted it telling myself it would just be for a year or two and then I’d be ready to jump back in with both feet. And then……a year into my part time position the job I’d wanted since my ﬁrst year of teaching came available. I, of course, still had a baby at home. An amazing little girl who I never thought I’d get to have.
I was heartbroken. Because I knew it just wasn’t the time to go back to work full time with more responsibility. My husband said he’d support me in whatever I wanted to do. But he also told me to think hard about the decision–he knew how bad I’d wanted this and didn’t want to see me walk away from an opportunity I’d always dreamed of.
I cried (even in front of my boss–ouch) about why this couldn’t have happened four years ago. I asked friends what they would do, but then….I just got honest with myself.
Could I do it? Sure.
Would it bring me some level of personal satisfaction and accomplishment? Deﬁnitely.
Would more money be nice? Of course.
Was I the same person who had wanted this a few years earlier? NO.
And that NO was what I had to come to grips with. I didn’t begrudge the fact that I was different (maybe I did a little). It just was what it was. I wrestled with what to do for a few weeks and felt myself stretch and grow in ways I didn’t really want to grow.
You see, I don’t believe the lie that American culture feeds its women, “that we can have it all.” No one can have it all–and how selﬁsh does that sound anyway? There is always a sacriﬁce; an opportunity cost to every single decision that we make and the sooner we come to grips with that, the happier we can work on becoming.
This career decision forced me to weigh out which opportunity cost I was about to embark on and what the new deﬁnition of myself was going to be. Would I pursue the job that I’d wanted……….forever, leaving me feeling overwhelmed and behind at home but professionally satisﬁed? Or would I continue doing something I’d never seen myself doing and be ‘okay’ with it even though it wasn’t necessarily the most fulﬁlling position career wise, in the name of feeling sane and happy about what was happening behind the doors of my house?
My head and heart were at war. My bank account got a few jabs in too.
When it came time however to put up or shut up and give an answer on whether or not I was going to go after this……..my ﬁght kind of dissolved. I didn’t have the motivation that I was ‘sure I’d always have’ to take on this new position……or even the idea of it. My psyche had been reformed without me really even knowing it. I’d unknowingly allowed it to happen. And sometimes, when it happens in a quiet, slow, creeping-in kind of way and just becomes who you are without you making the deliberate choice to be someone new the answers to life’s questions seem a bit more natural…..easy if you will.
I am still working my part-time job, three years later. It’s become my new ‘job that I love.’ It’s not where I had ever imagined I’d be career wise and while I realize that the old me would view this as an immense career sacriﬁce and the society who says you can have it all would label it a sad picture of another ‘mom who gives up her career and everything she could have become’ the new me is fulﬁlled. Fulﬁlled in a different way than I set out so many years ago to be.
And I’ve grown. Grown into a mom who has had to make uncomfortable decisions in an attempt to feel comfortable somewhere else. A role I didn’t think would come easily, naturally, or seamlessly. And at times it didn’t. But when I step back now….all these years later, it feels like it was always who I was supposed to be even if it’s so far from who I thought I was going to be six, seven, eight years ago.
It’s refreshing, usually after the fact, to let yourself grow. It’s amazing to ease into new roles in life that you had no intention of easing into and discovering that they in fact, feel more natural than your original plans ever did.
I wear the badge of adoptive mom with honor, pride, thankfulness, and humility. I live everyday in awe of the fact that my daughter’s birth parents chose my husband and I to raise Georgia as ours, and to entrust us with her future and well-being; both physically and emotionally.
Pink Shoes is a platform for me to write about those everyday, very simple moments that make a life and what I can learn from them. The writer Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I refuse to let simple occurrences in the course of a grocery shopping trip, a rainy morning at home, a meeting at work, dinner out, dinner in, a walk in the woods, a disagreement with a friend, an over-flowing laundry basket, a drive to my parents house, or an inside joke with my husband pass me by–because if I did–I’d be letting my life pass me by.
I first realized this when I bought a pair of pink shoes about seven years ago at Old Navy–read the story and then start looking for all the pink shoes in your own life. They’re there; if you’re willing to look for them, hold onto them, and use them. I know it.