This past month I traveled to Washington, D.C. to give a presentation for work. As I sat in the back of the cab heading to my hotel, we passed by the Washington Monument and I remembered one of the first times I went to the nation's capital. It was a field trip with my Girl Scout troop, and I believe it was for a national celebration of the anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America's founding. We sat on the lawn around the monument and exchanged the handmade pins we brought with us for buttons, bracelets, and lanyards made by other girl scouts from all around the country.
The last time I went to D.C. was in 2017 for the Women's March, and interestingly enough there is a parallel to both of my experiences: witnessing the power of a large group of women and girls gathering together in solidarity, showing up and choosing to be present, accounted for, and not apologizing for existing. On this current trip, I was sharing a presentation that not only I volunteered to develop, but it was on a topic I suggested and had a lot of fun researching. I was by myself, but I was also representing professional working women everywhere while taking this quick, solo business trip.
One of the challenges I've had over the past few years has been with my personal identity and not being boxed in as a wife, or working professional. I've come to learn that the point of modern feminism is that no one has to be defined by their gender or by one role. There is power in being multifaceted by drawing from multiple experiences, whether as a partner, parent, working professional, artist, activist, or avid British Bake Off fan. One does not hold more weight or value over the other, and I don't have to fit into one box because it's expected. Instead, I can interpret what those labels mean to me and my own experience.
For a long time, I always thought work and my career was my identity. How could I not? Most of my best friends I met through work and even met my husband through work. I also received a lot of satisfaction from my success and was proud about having the ability to support myself and feel a bit of purpose. I was solidly convinced that I fit the box of the professional working woman. However, I discovered over the years that a job cannot be everything that defines you, and the more you think you fit in a box, the more you lose what makes you unique. There will be ebbs and flows to industries and businesses, and there is no guarantee that you'll have your job forever. We need to eventually ask ourselves: what defines us beyond our work?
This past month I agreed to be a part of The Laundromat Project’s People-Powered Challenge 2019 campaign. While I was setting my my personal fundraising page, I had to write a statement about why the LP's mission was important to me. I ended up writing about how I've discovered over time that art, community, and culture are three things I value most in life. Add curiosity and I would confidently say those four are the cornerstones of who I am.
I've only recently become comfortable calling myself an artist, but the fact is that I've committed to having a creative practice and have made even more paintings within this past year than I did in one college semester. I've also been focused on getting more involved with my community and investing in my friendships. I joined Greenpoint Art Circle earlier this year, am testing out being a Gathering host for Quilt, and have made more of an effort to reach out to people, whether to grab dinner or offering to help with their wedding. For culture, I always feel inspired and enriched through new experiences with music, art, museums, and film. Since I was a kid I've been a sponge when it comes to learning about different people and how they lived, which leads to a penchant for curiosity. While I may have had doubts before, I feel that my profession as a strategist and researcher is aligned with my natural inclination to wonder "why?"
Sometimes I feel plagued with possibilities about the future and what I should focus my time on. I've suffered from the comparison game and the never-ending struggle to chase after titles or positions. At the end, you can't chase after dreams based on the label that comes with it. The facets that make up all of you will authentically lead you (all of you) to where you need to go.