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Maria Shriver

Journalist & Activist

Los Angeles, CA

I would have never discovered that truth had I not leaned in long enough to prove myself wrong.

Back in 2003 the unthinkable happened. I had to give up my job as a broadcast journalist at NBC News, a career that gave me a great sense of purpose, to gain a new one I did not want: First Lady of California.

I was a child of politics, of course, but at that moment, I was completely out of my comfort zone. I knew that the life I had been living, the life that I had planned, the life I had made for myself, was about to be turned upside down.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. At the time, I thought it was an absolute disaster. I was losing my paycheck and my identity as a working woman. I didn't want to be called "First Lady." I didn't want to cut ribbons or pick out Christmas ornaments. I was terrified of the unknown road ahead. My overwhelming instinct was to lean back, not in.

But then it dawned on me: the role of First Lady has no job description. Not having those rules meant that I could make the role my own, which challenged me to figure out what was truly important to me and what kind of impact and contribution I wanted to make.

So, I leaned in to my new job. I let the unknown challenge me as I worked through the uncertainty and the discomfort. I created an annual forum for inspiration and education called The Women's Conference. I launched programs, started initiatives and used my voice on a daily basis, to support women and families who were struggling to balance the responsibilities of work, children and aging parents. I decided to use my new platform to carry out my journalism by shining a spotlight on the issues I believed were critically important to the health and well being of the state.

While I was reluctant to embrace the role at first, I can now say that being First Lady was the job of a lifetime. I would have never discovered that truth had I not leaned in long enough to prove myself wrong. Leaning in allowed me to grow into the role and more fully into myself.