As a parent it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are the teachers and that our kids learn from us. Yet as my twenty-one year old son has blossomed into adulthood, I realize that he is as much my teacher as I was his teacher at one point. In recent months, my son who has had an amazing academic career as an undergraduate has agonized over finishing college. Despite excelling at school and having a promising future, his passion is music and in the past year his music has crossed over from hobby status to having real potential as a career. Much to the dismay of the family, he made the decision over the summer to take a leave of absence from college and postpone his senior year and is now happily living in our hometown and working on music.
After a series of large mistakes in recent years, the idea of putting myself out and actually changing my life so that I could start living the life I want was too much for me. What if I failed again? So in the interest of being a responsible adult, I have been playing it safe personally and professionally and living life at half capacity and feeling quite unhappy about it. But I was too scared to take a leap, until I watched my son create a life that made him happy and the light bulb went off in my own head. Just do it! Yep, just like the old Nike slogan, get off my ass, stop putting up roadblocks and create the life I want.
While I have openly talked about the personal limitations of living in Maine as a person of color, I have never discussed the professional limits. In short, for what I do professionally, opportunities are limited and salaries are even more limited. The same goes for the Spousal Unit and his career. We moved here in 2002 with careers in full swing that were predicated on being in larger and more urban areas. The result is a decade plus where we have watched friends and peers make real professional strides but our own careers and finances have stagnated. That stagnation has taken a toll on us individually and collectively as a couple. Combined with the ongoing struggle and stressors of being a multiracial family in a very white state, there have been many times in recent years where we didn’t know if we were going to make it.
One night this summer while sipping wine and surfing online, I came across a job listing for a position, a civil rights organization in Boston that needed an executive director. I will spare you all the details but on a whim, I sent in a resume and promptly forgot about it. Imagine my surprise some weeks ago when I received a request for an interview. Despite progressing through each stage of the interview process, my inner dialogue was stuck on a loop of fear and reasons why if I were offered the position, I really couldn’t take the job. I will spare you the details but it was ugly and finally I had to remember what my yoga teacher taught me early in my yoga journey, ignore that fucking voice, it isn’t your friend as Michael Singer says in The Untethered Soul. In fact that voice that we think is ourselves is a saboteur who delights in our unhappiness.
This morning, I accepted the position and in January I will take over as the executive director of a four decades old civil rights organization in Boston, I will also be the first person of color to ever head this organization. It will be a challenge since I will no longer be a big fish swimming in a small pond, but rather a small fish in a big pond who needs to grow big and strong.
As for Maine, we aren’t packing up just yet though starting in January, I will be spending part of the week living in Boston since after making the trek a few times now, a 5 hour round trip commute on a daily basis is a bit too much. These changes will create big shifts for the BGIM family but as the Man Unit and I have concluded we need big change. As a mother, I have struggled with what this would mean for the eight year old who has never been away from me for longer than 36 hours. She told me last night “Mama, take the job, Daddy and I will be fine on the days that you are gone.” I still carry the scars of attachment parenting and must admit that I am working that one out and working on silencing the mommy judgment voice that is shrieking what kind of mother would take a job where she won’t be home several days a week? I am reminding myself that I wear many hats and that my mommy hat is just one of them. After all there are many ways to parents our kids successfully. In our case, fiscal stability is also a part of successful parenting.
So as we enter this new season of autumn, the winds of change are blowing many new changes my way. I won’t lie I am nervous but I know that after years of playing it safe, that is no longer working for me. Watching my brave boy take a chance was a reminder to me, that just because I am all grown up, I can still take chances too.