Not an apology.
I’ve been at a thing this week. With people. Other genuine adult people who are experts across my field for my regular job that I do for money.
They’re experts that yearn to learn more. They know enough to know they don’t know everything.
I do, too.
But I know that you can’t only ask questions. Eventually you have to pay it forward, passing along your wisdom to others. You have to show your scars so others might learn from your mistakes. You have to tell them what works, even when you labored to figure it out alone.
Even when you feel mostly like a fraud because a minute ago you were a teenager who didn’t know your ass from a hole in the ground.
Even when your kids think you’re smart, but only really about things like how much laundry soap goes in the washer and finding their other shoe.
Even when the words feel strange coming out of your mouth, like someone else is explaining these complicated matters because how could someone like you know anything about anything?
Even when “how the hell do I know all this but I still can’t figure out what the fuck Medium changed this time” and also “what is a snapchat, even”?
Even when you think most of what you know is common knowledge, even when it’s not. Even stupid things like the reason horses have ribbons braided into their tails in the summertime or weird Hitler trivia.
Even when it would serve them right to fumble through, too.
Even when this thing-you-do-for-money is dominated by men, mostly.
The men who, even when staff body counts are equal get paid more, are promoted more often, are given more credit for the work and ideas of others, and are hired in at levels above despite lacking knowledge and experience.
The men who get hired as your boss, but who you get to train because they’ve never done your job so they have no idea whether they should indicate during your review whether you’re doing it right or wrong.
The men who unapologetically take up more than their fair share of space at their respective tables, while their female colleagues contort and hide their bodies.
My loud mouth spoke up. And hers. And also her over there, she spoke up. We joined the conversation, not because we aren’t anxious in front of the crowd, but because we had something to say.
We’ve done the things. We know about the things. We know more than others know because we have studied the things until we dream of the things.
And the men showed up. They sought us out and asked questions and asked for insight and asked for the opportunity to continue conversations.
They know we’re here, and we’re valuable, and we’re not going away.
Reality tells me they will likely ride our successes, pass them off as their own, and sail up the ranks while we’re still here doing the work.
But that’s ok. The winds are shifting, and eventually the ship will right itself.
Even if we have to blow in the sails sometimes.
Over dinner, one woman shared that she had been behind a significant, news-worthy event in her career that she’s now retired from. The event was so interestingly significant that a film was made.
Her role was played by a man, because the world wasn’t ready to accept a woman in such a heroic position.
But those were the old times.
She’s still showing up. She’s still teaching the men [and women] things. She’s still not keeping her wisdom to herself because she knows her real legacy will come in others’ success.
But her story? She’s writing her own. A book. Where the girl saves the day. Where she can address how things went down. Where she can talk about how they bitched about them having “sent a woman to do a man’s job.”
Soon I’ll return to the office to catch up on emails, and the eagerness to implement my new-found knowledge will fade. For now I will sit in appreciation for her and others like her who went first, who paved the way for me and the other women, so that we might leave the path smoother for the next, the women and men who will tell our stories when we’re gone.
Please just make sure my role goes to a lady in the movie.