What advice would your adult self give your younger self?

My speech impediment is going to come out like crazy. The advice I would give my younger self is to be a 100 percent focused on myself in the moment. When I was younger I used to think that opportunities came from networking and preparing for the next step ahead. In actuality, I’ve learned that opportunities come from doing a really good job in your current role and building out those skill sets.

When I was teaching, I feel like I was constantly thinking about what I am going to do next. “What am I going to do after this teaching program? What is going to come next? What’s my next job, my next move?” And because I was so focused on that, I don’t think I was the best teacher I could have been. I could have been far better if I had leaned in and been more fully present there.

I now feel like I’m finally in a place where I am not thinking about what is next at all. As a result, I am throwing myself into my current role and my current job. I’ve seen opportunities pop up for me. I’m developing the skills I need to be developing and just doing a good job. That is how next steps come about. It is also way more fulfilling when you are present in the moment and throwing yourself into your work vs. constantly thinking about that “what’s next?”

What lessons from the past few years will you take with you in the future?

To stop planning every step of the way; to stop looking around at what my friends are doing, my families doing, my coworkers are doing; to stop viewing what they’ve done and see what milestones I “should” be completing at this point in time.

I feel like in the past, I’ve always looked around and said things like, “That person is 25 and they are already in a director role,” or, “This person is 28 and they’ve already bought a house,” or, “That person has been dating their boyfriend for six months less than I have, and how come they are already engaged?” Just constantly looking around me for ways that I should be on a certain timeline and hitting these milestones on that supposed timeline.

Again, I feel like I’m finally in a place where I’m doing what I want to do, not what I am supposed to be doing. I am actually letting go of this timeline and expectations and finally listening to my own needs. Sometimes that means disappointing people. When James [my husband] and I share lovely life updates, those aren’t the same ones that our parents wished we were sharing; but it’s nice to do what we want and letting go of disappointing other people and listening to our own needs.

What can MEN do to better support women?

Just to listen and empathize; not to jump in with a opinions without thinking about how men approach situations differently. James and I talk about this a lot. I recently had an uncomfortable experience in a Lyft. Nothing bad, but I shared this story with James. I took a Lyft because I was late for work. The body position of the driver, the things he was saying lead to a really uncomfortable 20 minutes. Every two minutes I contemplated asking him to pull over. I showed up to office feeling a little frustrated.

The first thing I thought of was how come I have to show up to work feeling frustrated and frazzled because this driver made me feel uncomfortable because I’m a female. It made me feel frustrated with my male coworkers because they don’t have to show up to work this way. If they need to take a Lyft in the morning because they are late, the situation is pleasant. They get there faster and in a better headspace; whereas I wished I had taken a bus instead – lesson learned.

This is something I’ve been talking about with my husband – until you’re in that experience, it is hard to empathize, so you need to listen. And I shared that my experience was not uncommon. Most times, when I take a Lyft by myself, I don’t necessarily feel comfortable. I need the men in my life and my community to understand that. Not just in terms of Lyft obviously, but there are many situations that are so normal and everyday for men that are not normal and everyday for females.

That is the same thing for people of different races. I don’t experience what they experience everyday. Same for people of different religions, or sexual orientations, etc. We need people to stop and understand as many perspectives as possible before jumping in and offering advice and our opinions.

Last year, James and I had a conversation about how we want our future children to view the world. We decided that the goal for our children is for them to consider at least four different viewpoints, from four incredibly different personas, before forming an opinion. This is isn’t something that our own families really pushed us to do but we want to hold ourselves accountable to that for our future family.

What is your story of strength?

My story strength definitely comes down from my grandfather. He is grew up a Jewish man in Nazi Germany. So many stories there. He came over to America after having lived in ghetto, not being allowed in school, and watching many friends and families get shipped to concentration camps. The only reason his family wasn’t sent to a camp in the first wave is because his father, my great grandfather, was a WW1 war hero. Luckily they escaped to Portugal before more waves were shipped there or else he would have been included in that too. He faced hardship after hardship and his family left everything in Germany. Seriously, they came over here with no money and no belongings. He is such a symbol of strength in my life. Always has been. What he went through was obviously not an ideal situation in any form, but he was able to overcome it all and be here and be grateful for everything he hard. It’s something I really always admire about him and try  to reinforce that in my own life.

From him I have learned to elevate the positive and what I am I grateful for. That’s not always an easy thing to do, but it definitely takes some strength. To look at a situation and ask myself, “What in this situation do I have to be grateful for?” If a family member is sick, if there is a big fight, if there is a death, it is difficult and important to find what I am grateful for in a situation. What I take away from my grandfather is to try to find something. There is always something to be grateful for.

My grandfather wrote a memoir, which was amazing because there was so much I learned about his life that I never knew. I learned that he was never bar mitzvahed formally because it was scheduled for Kristillinacht and his synagon was burned down. I learned he didn’t go to school for three years because he wasn’t allowed. That really blew my mind because he was the smartest man I knew. I learned his father, again my great grandfather, was murdered when they arrived to the States.  And mostly I learned that he has never given up on religion or God. That is something I questioned him about once since it seemed like religion, and peoples’ hate towards one another, was actually the root of many of his problems. That’s why I have at least always questioned organized religion.

In his final years of this life, his wife, my grandmother, his wife of 70  years had to split and live in different places. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. He had to give up his house, his life. They couldn’t live in the same place. I can’t imagine that being an easy day to go through, and he just made the best out of his living situation. He made all these friends; he become the “mayor” of his new living community. Obviously he would rather be with his wife, he just really found what there is to be grateful in his environment. I think about that a lot.

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