When I was very young – about nine or ten – I visited a convent, and I noticed something about the place that left a lasting impression. There were two houses: one big and one little. While exploring, I learned that there were thirteen nuns working in the convent, and all of them lived together in the little house. Then I learned that there were only two priests on the entire property—and they lived in the big house.
In that moment, a question rose in me that I’ve been working to address in one way or another throughout my entire career: Why don’t the women live in the big house? As I grew older and gained more experiences, the question grew alongside me and became more complex. Throughout my journey, it has revisited me again and again––as an opportunity here, or a challenge there, or sometimes as a surprise.
Early in my professional life, I was a successful sales and marketing performer at a Fortune 500 company, and yet I felt at odds between the success I was enjoying and what I really felt called to do, which at that time was travel. I chose to listen to whatever voice it was that was calling, and I did travel. For a year, I explored Asia, including Nepal and India. While I was in India, I met a woman who ran her own NGO focusing on women’s issues. Together, we built an Internet site to increase her exposure, and to help her find the resources she needed to do her work effectively. During that experience, it struck me that I had gone thousands of miles away from home to find again the question I first had as a little girl.
That was the beginning of a new direction for me. When I became pregnant with my son, I turned down several high-level offers to return to work. Instead of just going back to something I was good at, I chose to go after something that really felt good. When my son was a year old, I began to pursue a Master’s degree. I wanted to be a therapist, so I could help all kinds of people discover the beautiful inner voice that will guide them to transformative decisions.
But I was in for another surprise. Just as I graduated, the law for attaining my professional license changed, and it became extremely difficult to acquire the number of clinical hours I needed. It seemed like my dream was just out of my reach. So I joined a group of women addressing policy, and working for positive change in a profession where, though predominately populated by women, all of the decision makers were men. We were successful, and we made the policy changes we sought to make. That was a wonderful, empowering moment.
Today, I’m a psychotherapist. A lot of the work I do focuses on helping women and men cultivate that sense of empowerment in themselves. I want my son to feel at complete liberty to embrace success at home and at the office––not just one or the other.
I think it’s so important that we allow ourselves to be happy about doing what matters to us, and that we take ownership of our choices. Essentially, the journey I started so long ago has been about discovering and sharing ways all of us can make space for ourselves, wherever we are.