Last year I wrote a Smith Voices letter, which praised the SAQ’s reporting on burgeoning careers, but wondered if they may print something to inspire me in my new career as Managing Partner of Household Affairs and Crisis Management, otherwise known as a stay-at-home parent. The letter generated some interesting responses, notably the assertion that motherhood was commonplace and did not deserve mention in a magazine that was intended to praise success. Motherhood as a commonplace profession is a sensitive subject and one that deserves its own space, but what captured my attention most about this response was the notion of success. By choosing to stay at home with my family, did I give up my chance at being successful or noteworthy?
He’s not the only one to make such an astute observation. I think Jane Lynch explained this intensity the best in her 2012 Commencement Address, “You are the women of Smith. You are fiercely independent, wicked smart, trail blazing, uber confident and shockingly entitled.” And it’s true. The moment we stepped foot on campus, we were told time and time again that Smith women can accomplish anything they set their mind to and that we are only capable of success. In other words, alongside the education we soaked up from the classroom, we were pumped full of confidence. Not a bad way to be sent off into the world.
So you can imagine, as I am kneeling on the floor of my laundry room folding a few dozen washcloths that are primarily used to clean up the urine artfully sprayed on our floors by my potty-training son, why the idea of success and whether or not I qualify as one, is still rumbling about in my head. Have I let my alma mater down?
I think not.
The intensity that my friend touched on (and that Smith cultivated) is still there. The desire to learn and master is still alive and well. I have simply chosen to channel this energy in a different manner than most of those triumphant women in the pages of SAQ. I don’t think the fact that I quit a Wall Street job to live on a farm and spend the majority of my time outside digging in the dirt or that I find great joy in making my own jam surprises any one of my classmates. I am grateful to Smith in many ways, but ultimately it was the confidence drilled in me there as a student that allowed me to quit a promising career and explore a new life.
My definition of success has changed over time and it will probably continue to evolve but at this stage in the game, I can only trust that if you are happy with your days, you are most definitely a rock star. Honestly, what can be more rewarding and telling than the smile you wear on your face?