For me, week-day mornings are the toughest. No matter how early I wake up, we never seem to get out of the house on time – and by the time I get to work I am exhausted.
If I could thank someone for getting me through those tough times and for inspiring me to show up every day, it would be my grandmothers. My grandmothers took paid jobs at a time when it was more typical for women to be at home, and still seemed to fulfill all the family and social obligations expected of them – thinking back I don’t remember them ever missing a beat. I don’t know how they did it and I never had the sense to ask them – and, I do not know if, in all the things they did, they in fact found themselves fulfilling their dreams.
One of my great-grandmothers was a Swedish immigrant who aspired to be a doctor. Instead she studied massage in Sweden prior to joining her two uncles in the United States. In Chicago she found work for a physical therapist, was successful and eventually was able to buy the business. This enabled my grandfather to go to college. One of my grandmothers aspired to work, but had to ask her husband permission to do so. Permission was granted as long as working would in no way impact him or the family. She went on to mange a major city hospital, and pay for her children’s college educations – the first generation to go to college. By most measures my grandmothers did not achieve great success in their lives and they did not change the world. But maybe for that reason they represent to me one of the most fundamentally necessary characteristics – courage. Courage to embrace risk and courage to challenge the status quo, courage to dream big and courage to work with what you have been given.
So on those mornings after I have been up late answering email, and no one wants to eat breakfast or wear their socks. We miss the bus, and have to walk to school. On that walk I finally realize the one last thing that would make that day’s presentation complete but when I get into work there are a million things to do first.
That is when I think of my grandmothers.
Because it reminds me that I am part of a legacy. We all are.
Whether it is a family or a business, a culture or a community, being a professional career woman or a stay-at home mom – who we will become and the opportunities we have mattered to those who came before us, and the choices we make will impact, for better or for worse, those who come after.
This thought keeps me motivated; it reminds me to believe in myself and challenges me to not be the weakest link. It also reminds me to look to the horizon – because legacies do not go backwards.
So, thank you Grandma, and Great-grandma. I would not have been able to do this without you. And, I miss you.