I got a call a couple of weeks ago from an old acquaintance. She is experiencing a rough patch in her life and wanted to know how I was able to get out of a bad relationship and still have what she sees as a successful life. Really? You are calling me? Hmm, I have been so busy living life that I sometimes forget to look back and reflect on the road I have traveled to my current happy place.
Leaving a relationship, even a bad one, is a painful experience. I liken it to a death. It hurts. It can also be like surgery. Sometimes you have to suffer before you can get better. Life does not stop while you are going through a divorce. At a time when you are struggling emotionally and are forced to make major life decisions, you still have to live your “normal life”. While going through my divorce, my best friend died of cancer, and I had to have surgery twice within a year. It was a very tough time. Somehow, going to work became my reprieve. It was the only place that I could be without reminders of the heartache that was my personal life. I poured myself into my job and my children. I got up every day, got ready, put a smile on my face and faced my challenges. I was determined to succeed both at work and with my children. I went through the motions and eventually I had come out the other side.
I give a lot of credit to my parents for my professional success. I grew up in a traditional middle class family where dad worked and mom was the family CEO. I always envisioned myself in the business world. My parents pushed us to do as well as we could in school and there were no distinctions regarding males and females where grades were concerned. If excelling in the classroom was encouraged at a very early age, why would that be different in a boardroom? My bigger struggle was finding balance. Trying to merge my parent’s two roles into the person that I had become. It is exhausting being an over achiever at home and at work.
Most of my career was spent in a male dominated world. I spent many days in our company conference room in meetings where I was the only female. It was just how it was. When the company that I worked for was acquired by a larger company I attended an executive conference. There were 62 people in attendance. I was the only female executive. I confess there were a few awkward moments. Men act differently around women. When you are the only woman in a sea of men, they sometimes forget. Like the time that I went to a sales dinner with 5 men. They were trying to impress each other with stories of their toys, fly-fishing, hunting, and talk of their favorite sports teams and the highlights of the recent games. Boy, I had a great time that night. Most of the time though, it was just business. It was just what I did and my contributions were respected and valued. My gender did not matter.
I have been fortunate to have become a member of a networking organization where I am surrounded by other successful women and hear many success stories of women that have courageously forged the path for my generation to attain our professional goals. When I hear some of their stories, I am astounded to hear how far women have come in the working world. Kudos to the trailblazers! I hope my generation and those that follow prove worthy of your example. I believe what my dad taught me, if you can see it, with hard work and determination, you can be it.
© 2015 Mitchell Hayes