I just wanted to post an amazing e-mail that I received from Martha Mihaly in response to my post on going solo. It really made me sit up straight and take stock of what I’m doing here — getting involved in the community, making my own rules and exploring my passion.
This e-mail, from one woman to another, is about the very real, very tough decisions we make in life as we settle down and start a family. One of the main reasons I chose to set out on this adventure while I’m still young, single and relatively responsibility-free is because I just don’t know that I’d make the decision to put my career first when I’m, one day, a wife and a mother.
Reading Martha’s words made me realize how right I was to do this now. Thank you Martha, for your honesty and encouragement. I’ll remember it always.
I was glad to hear of your success in week one. It is really great! I don’t know how to say what I want to say WITHOUT sounding totally crazy so bear with me and here it goes…
Were I 10 years younger, or even at a different point in my life I would love to do what you are doing! I am so pleased to see young intelligent women involved in UE in a meaningful and very well thought out way.
I stumbled into this work a year and a half ago when a friend called me to help him out with research and writing, editing, marketing… I loved it, and found it so fun and challenging. Unfortunately the part time work rapidly became an all consuming job and I had to give it up. I am a mother of two, married to a great man who has a super successful (and far more lucrative) career. We made decisions about having kids, and about who had the greater earning potential, and who would be the ‘support staff’. I had to stop the work as it overshadowed the important things in my life.
So where am I going with this? I suppose what I am saying is follow your dreams while you can. Life changes quickly, and once you get to a certain point in the road, you can’t turn back you just have to keep going forward to the next intersection. Your writing is great, your ideas original and well laid out.
I’ll be following your blog, and rooting for your weeks to be billable at 27+ hours.
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This is sad and very untrue. You can ALWAYS change your life, no matter what your age. You just have to overcome the fear of doing so. It's just a question of giving things up to follow your dreams. Maybe you will have to give up your cushy, stable, secure life. Maybe it will be hard and uncertain. But probably the thing stopping you is, in fact, you.
It's ironic that one of the related posts to this post is about Randy Pausch. Perhaps Martha should listen to The Last Lecture.
Whitney Hess says
Dan, I really appreciate your response and I agree that people always have the power to follow their dreams. But what Martha touches upon is that those decisions have a lot more baggage when you have a family. Some women get flack for pursuing full-time careers when they have young children. My mom, a super successful business person who has given every ounce of herself to career, still feels incredibly guilty for not being my primary caretaker (I had a babysitter from week 1 until age 9 — I called her my second mom). For some people, one dream eclipses the other. Or at a certain point a sense of responsibility is what drives you forward and you let your dreams fall by the wayside. I don't think there's anything wrong with admitting that.
Again, I think “having a family” can be an excuse. Is it easier to follow your dreams when you have no responsibilities? Sure. But if you don't try to make your dreams come true, then, well, you've given up and you don't want the dream that badly. Think of J.K Rowling, writing the first Harry Potter book while on the dole and with children. You have to want it, male or female.
I made the most radical career changes in my own life when I was in my 30s, married, with a child and a mortgage. In the end, it's better for everyone to go for it, so that at least you try. Otherwise, you could end up blaming your kids for holding you back, which creates resentment.
You are your choices.
I suggest that you take what I wrote in context. Written from one woman to another, not intended to be published and critiqued. In that light, how dare you call it ‘sad and untrue’?
I make no excuses for life and decisions made. As an adult I make commitments and decisions. I don't flit from thing to thing following my muse.
For the record Dan, I have been laid off 4 times and made 3 major career changes in my life, my husband has made one major career change as well. We too have taken risks and carry a mortgage. This isn't about risk adversity. It is about passion.
Change and adversity have taught me to value happiness and family above all. So, what I suggest to anyone is that you do the majority of exploration and risk taking before you have other distractions in life.
What I am saying applies to me, and I would suggest to woman more than men as Whitney alluded.
Life is too short to be unhappy, stressed out over priorities. I choose not to be in the rat race now. I choose to work my 20 hours a week doing fun stuff for money, and 80 hours a week for the joy of being inspired by my kids.
Dan, I don’t need to watch someone dying to help me take my decisions. I am living my dream. I hope that Whitney lives hers.