Tanya Mahoney

Project Manager & Educator

Location: Dallas, TX

"On the road I was not someone’s mother; I was not someone’s wife; I was a woman rediscovering what it felt like to indulge in some 'me time'...to play, to dance and to dream."

Sometimes you have to lean back before you can lean in. After September 11th, I took stock of my life and left a hectic director position with the Red Cross to spend more time with my husband and children. My new position involved coordinating a literacy program at less than half my previous pay. For a time, it was enough.

As a mother employed outside the home, I was like many of my friends – trying to “have it all” – juggling activities, homework, projects, all the while supporting my husband in his efforts to start his own law firm. I didn’t recognize the warning signs that I was losing myself in the shuffle until an email came that smacked me in the face.

“Have you ever wanted to walk across America?” I had never considered this question – but I decided in that moment I was going on that walk! With the support of my husband and children, I applied and was accepted as one of 12 national walkers on a cross-country walk from New York to California to promote the Presidential Fitness Award. I settled on an arrangement with my employer to work remotely and prepared for a three-month journey across the United States. Part of me feared I would no longer have a job upon my return.

I suddenly went from feeling stuck to having a huge dream. The “director” in me took over, and I had to split time between training myself for the walk, and training my family to survive (and thrive) without me. I created lists, phone trees, wrote letters for my children and took extra effort to create positive memories of this prep time for my family. Maybe these efforts were for them - maybe they were for me. I needed to feel that we would all be okay while I was gone. I wanted this adventure to belong to all of us.

I don’t think it would be “normal” to say I didn’t doubt myself; I doubted my decisions every day when the journey started. Being separated from my family was like being separated from a vital part of myself. I felt lost at first. On the road I was not someone’s mother; I was not someone’s wife; I was a woman rediscovering what it felt like to indulge in some “me time”...to play, to dance and to dream.

As I continued on with my journey, my husband and children became my "coaches,” encouraging me to strive harder and set loftier goals. My walk became a family experience, as they travelled to various cities to join me along the road, often walking with me a mile or two.

Taking the last steps onto the boardwalk in Santa Monica, I was hit once again with conflicting thoughts and doubts. After three months away, what would it be like to return home? Would I get stuck in a rut again? Or would I dare to continue this journey? Could my adventure-mode reconcile with my family-mode?

Returning home, our family was even closer than before. Yet there was a difference – an air of independence and confidence that emanated from each family member. On my journey, I had logged many miles of walking and thinking – making decisions and setting goals for my future. Secure in the knowledge that my family was more than self-sufficient, I parlayed my remote work experience and skills into a full-time position with my company and started researching my next goal: graduate school.

Today I have my Master’s degree, a promotion with added pay and my eye on some very big dreams. I am so proud that I have attained these goals and have shown my children that no dream is too big if you work hard enough.