When I was in graduate school, I knew I wanted to do public-facing work. I wrote publicly about a career strategy: consider staying. Staying seemed the right choice for me and for our family. Uprooting ourselves for the possibility of a tenure track job was not an option.
I got flack in the comments; many people said I would be a total failure. But I followed my own advice anyway. And it wasn’t like I found success overnight. I said yes to lots of opportunities and invitations. I drank lots of coffee, building a network from the ground up. And I sowed seeds.
Five years later, I’m starting to collect dividends.
I just finished a seriously big professional day in my life. I started the day giving a keynote address to 250 public servants from across our state and ended the day on a panel presenting to 150 public servants from across the country. 2 big opportunities to address over 400 people in 2 states. I was understandably nervous. But I was also excited.
I primed my girls that I would be up and out early. I hate leaving the house without saying good morning to them. And I also told them I might not be home for bedtime. They understood.
I floated through the day. I listened to podcasts on the drive to Boston. I snuck in a call with my dad and with my oldest friend. And when I got back into my car to drive home, the weight of the day landed on top of me. The exhale was palpable.
Some days I feel so small and the world feels impossibly big. I wonder if anything I’m doing in my work is landing. And as a sociologist, all I want to do is work that improves the lives of others. At times, I feel a little helpless. So on those days, I delight in my small world, my husband and daughters and the simple and incredible life we lead together.
And some days my world feels wide open. Like I’m part of something huge and the words I say help other people in their work. And even if the impact is small, I feel proud.
Today my world was both big and small.
I have never been so simultaneously proud and exhausted in my life.
And as big as the world felt all day, the most satisfying part came as the hours wound down and I slipped into bed beside each of my daughters who had resisted sleep to be sure they got a good night kiss in person. As I snuggled my oldest, I said, “I’m sorry I missed dinner.” My oldest said, “we know what you were doing was more important.”
I wondered why she thought that. At times, work is pressing. It’s always a juggle. And I have explained that to them on the days they might feel like I’m putting work first.
“Nothing is more important than being your mom,” I replied.
Except today, that’s not true. It was all important. All of it.