I built a rocket when I was 8 (I am a woman)

My 2yo daughter playing with her magnetic puzzle rocket.

Well, I called the local electrical station my factory and told the curious onlookers (fellow 8-year-old kids from my neighborhood) it was my rocket project (I now continue it through my daughter). I think they mostly believed me, unless they concluded I was insane and failed to let me know. Of course, that story was completely made up.

On a more serious note: at 10, I organized a Red Cross equivalent for homeless animals. In all seriousness, this was a real project. I recruited those same kids to run laps and jump from trees as training (the job did not really require Parkour skills, but I felt it was great fun to pretend). We built cardboard box homes for them and salvaged shares of our scarce food from home to feed them. We also routinely came up to strangers, charming them to take the puppies and kittens home, we often succeeded.

When I was about 12, a teacher referred me to a local designer who ran a small marketing agency in town. He needed interns to disguise his business as an educational facility for property regulation purposes in the early 90s (young post Communism Russian Federation). He taught me how to use early versions of Photoshop, type setting by hand and planted my love for design and marketing. This was the moment I decided my dream would be to go to America, become an Art Director and make an ad for Coca-Cola (an unattainable beverage to me at the time and one I have not tasted until I was about 14). There was even a specific caveat that my Coca-Cola ad would run in Times Square.

Fast forward to 16, I came to America (as a refugee with my mom, having only $2 in our pockets). I took out loans, worked 3 jobs at a time and maintained honors to get as much scholarship money as possible through some serious private schooling (including the Cooper Union, Savannah College of Art and Design, and finally The School of Visual Arts — Advertising Design program). Deeply in debt, but hopeful, I graduated into a financial recession in 2007 at the age of 23 and my career felt like it ended before it even began. Here I was, with my honors and a golden Clio (among other accolades), working for a very unsexy Direct Marketing agency, way to go.

Since then, I got a Webby, Creativety wrote about my projects and I was starting to see the light. I was working on Pepsi, a good compromise to Coca-Cola dreams. But the industry has changed, I was making social content that ran on Facebook, instead of billboards (although I have made interactive billboard ads for Intel by then) and it arguably reached more people. 8 years into my career in the agency world, I was burnt out (120hr weeks often stretched over 7 days, advertising in NYC is modern day sweatshops) and realized my values have changed and thus priorities.

Some of the social content I created for the “Unbelievable Pepsi Next” (our tongue in cheek campaign tag).

My husband and I embarked on a digital nomad lifestyle and I started my own business of working from anywhere and hiring friends to help handle the load of work coming my way through pure word-of-mouth outreach. It was fun, I made a bunch of money, it was the happiest time in my life all around. I was free, I was creative, I was making cash and traveling the world with the love of my life. My school loan of more than a $120k was paid off in full (by me, no-one helped with even a $1, not parents, not boyfriends or my husband, I paid it all off on my own).

My daughter and I.

At 32, I gave birth to a baby girl. Life shifted drastically. I wanted to stay still and focus on her more than anything else. This is what happens to ambitious, talented career driven humans with dreams when they happen to be female. I fell in love with my family more than I loved my career. It’s a common threat for many incredible, powerful women I know. Women are not weaker, not less intelligent or less ambitious or risk avoiding (the risk taking is a whole other hurdle, think Outliers), women are made to sustain life and this biology, as long as women will continue to have children, will continue to prevail. Don’t take kindness and compassion to sacrifice ourselves for the better of human kind for weakness (all you jerk males who dare to claim superiority, you were raised by women, did you forget!? Try giving birth, for starters, your dreams of superiority will vanish. Don’t get me started here, I opted into completely natural birth). Exceptions are women with unusually supportive husbands (more power to you ladies, don’t make the rest of our relationships feel inadequate, we love our “less modern, less involved” partners as much as you love yours… and they do try hard, and they do improve over time. I’m not saying it’s fine, let’s keep it all as is — balance and baby steps are key), grandparents and/or vast resources for nannies etc.

My daughter is only 2, I’ll have my chance to shine again (not to say I haven’t done anything awesome since she was born, arguably, I’ve had to focus and thus do even better than ever before), should I choose to. There are countless cases that are way more impressive than mine. This is the reason men prevail in the workplace and thus dominate, not intellectual abilities. The only difference between men and women is the fact that women are weighed down by the most beautiful and daunting challenge — children, while men, not so much. For men, it’s almost entirely optional to choose the amount of contribution (of course all of this applies only to families where both parents are in love and present, not single daddies for example). And it’s not men’s fault, it’s women’s choice to love the family more. Should men make this choice, women will have to work more, I’m pretty sure most mommies are okay with choosing babies over careers should the husband present them with the opportunity. Again, this applies to families that are okay sustaining a single income.

With rising culture of women opting out of motherhood, we’re hearing the roar of feminism.
Some of my most recent projects.

I never stopped working, I still do, but I’m definitely laying low, and I like it. I get to spend lots of time raising my daughter because my philosophy is that I brought her into this world based on a conscious decision my husband and I made and I want to be the one to raise her in reasonable balance with my husband while he takes on tasks he’s clearly better at. I don’t want her passed onto another woman who happens to not be as ambitious about independence and career, or a grandma, or a boarding school.

Photos of Erika Citrin and Ligia Mariz Liuliuka I took

I’m lucky to have the opportunity to make this choice. I have all the ambition and all the talent, but I choose to put it into raising my baby. Meanwhile, let it be clear, I have a full time nanny! When I say I want to be the one to raise my child, I mean having enough time to meaningfully contribute and make informed decisions (this is a privilege, not a given, unattainable to previous generations).

And I’m not even saying I’ll make all the right decision, but at least I know I’m not just going with the flow, but trying to channel the best information I have at my fingertips. She may choose a different path for her own career/life, I’ll be there to support either direction. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just a big cross road all women able to bear children face at one point or another, should they live the privilege of having a choice at all.

Two of my main priorities in this entire world/life.

Thank you, my love, for allowing me to pivot from my dreams of building an imaginary rocket and becoming a famous Mad Woman, to simply being a happy and proud mom and wife (with a number of useless hobbies which you also support). I wouldn’t want it any other way (even though my original plan and understanding of motherhood and family had little to do with diapers and bedtime routines, the plan was equal contribution in parenting and financing, but it didn’t turn out that way and I’m happy). I give up the “who’s more intelligent/fit to work in a certain field” to be a simple silly mom of a little girl. But don’t be mistaken, I’m not done and if I am, it’s my conscious, deliberate choice to sacrifice what I’m capable of in the workplace to what I can do at home, for my family. Nothing is more important to me (again, this is an enormous privilege).

Men and women can get along and it’s not by AI algorithms or scientific data (insert more buzz word click bates here which got us all sucked into this hyped up nonsense to begin with), but as in physics, one has to be negatively charged to conduct with the positive outlet, thus one gives in and the other dominates to balance it all out. Switch and repeat – balance. I’m not taking any extreme positions here, I’m simply relaying my learnings to how I found a balance and went from nearly full on depressed to bobbly happy, and as in 2007, very hopeful for what’s ahead. This is my personal way of dealing with having to have given up a huge chunk of what I used to consider my identity (largely informed by Western and very isolated understandings of feminism, my depressed self was a product of) and realizing how much better off I am now. Nature is so much smarter and more creative than science is, as of yet (I do love science and try to inform most of my opinions based on hard data, always with a bit of cynicism, of course). Don’t let the life in a big city or ideas drawn from big media overshadow the basic bottom line. You know what I mean, we all enjoy a weekend getaway in the “woods” aka nature, there is a reason for it.

Let’s let the boys play the superheroes they invented for themselves (I don’t find the idea of the Wunderwoman attractive, and in fact, I find it dangerous and misleading). Let the ladies focus on leveraging their own creativity and talents. The difference between us is a beautiful thing, no need to step on each other’s toes.

Be yourself, everyone else is taken.

I’m going to continue editing this article, adding links etc. Life is always in “Draft”.