By Example

On the eve of Watermark’s Lead On Conference for Women, I am thinking about a thread-bare T-shirt that I bought in 1992. It reads: “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”

I still wear it proudly, though as the mother of two girls ages 7 and 10, my focus has shifted slightly from my ’90s I-am-woman-hear-me-roar attitude to more nuanced conversations about media literacy, girl empowerment, gender, marketing, and education.

And yet, as much as I talk, tweet, and post about these issues, I’ve come to realize that how I live makes the biggest impact.

Almost two years ago, after a decade and a half as a magazine editor for a publication I believed in, with writers I adored, I made a career move. The decision to leave was not an easy one. I debated, meditated, wrote out all the pros and cons. It took more thought than my decision to marry or have children. Basically my entire professional identity was wrapped up in being a magazine editor. I questioned everything. Who am I? And who would I be when I stepped away from my job?

You’ve got to continue to grow, or you’re just like last night’s cornbread — stale and dry. –Loretta Lynn

I resigned, transitioning from publishing to an in-house creative group at a Silicon Valley e-commerce company. Though I knew early on it was not a good fit, I stayed a year and learned a valuable lesson: I know what I do not want to do.

During that year, my girls saw me unhappy on Monday mornings, and then again in the evenings. It gave me pause. What am I showing them? Modeling for them? What advice would I give to them?

I gave notice — and this time without the endless debates and long lists of pros and cons. After having a regular paycheck and benefits my entire adult life, this was by far the most terrifying and exhilarating thing I’d ever done.

I am now an independent writer, editor, consultant — a story catcher.
I’m working harder and longer than I ever have, but I’m able to braid my girls’ hair in the mornings and make that Girl Scout meeting in the afternoon. At this time in my life, I know what I most want: fulfilling work and flexibility. While my income dipped, I am as happy on Monday morning as I am on Sunday. And I cannot put a price tag on that.
I still believe in the faded words on my thread-bare T-shirt, in Patricia Arquette’s call for equality, in Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s Representation Project, and in Emily’s List. I leaned in my way and now I’m ready. I’m ready to hear from Silicon Valley women leaders and executives, Jill Abramson, Brene Brown, Kimberly Bryant. And I’m ready for Hillary.