'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg has taught me an invaluable lesson for myself and my daughter.
I see now that I often gave up opportunities to be passionately engaged because they didn't fit into my schedule. I didn't participate in moot court because it would have required me to stay at law school on the weekends instead of driving home to be with my husband. I chose college classes with early exam dates so that I could have a longer vacation visiting my family who lived overseas, instead of choosing classes that fascinated me. I wouldn't trade my strong family ties for anything in the world. But now I see that I can—and very well could have—made choices that would have supported my exploration of passion and cultivated my family bonds.
My daughter, I am going to teach you to follow your passions. If the service trip you want to take cuts into our family vacation, I am going to encourage you to take the trip. Our love will survive even if we see each other less. If you have a career opportunity that will take you far from home but that stokes your passion, I will support you however I can—with babysitting, money or a phone call when you are homesick. Make your choices based on interest, not just duty or responsibility. I am going to teach you to fight for what you want in life. Just because someone says no, doesn't mean you have to take it. Speak up and try to get a yes. Even if you don't really want it, fight so that when you do want something, you know how to get it.
Sheryl Sandberg talks about the career jungle gym instead of the career ladder. I see now that my adherence to a ladder perspective has made it harder to accept the choices I have made that have taken me off the ladder. If I had always seen it as a jungle gym, then my stint at the Gap, my two years as a college-admissions advisor, my degree in international business law, my six years running our family medical practice and my recent foray into starting my own coaching business, would have felt less like a jumbled mismatch and more like a wealth of experiences.
I am changing my perspective and finding the value in each opportunity that I have embraced. And if I had been able to do that earlier, it would have saved me hours and hours of self-doubt and feeling unsuccessful because I wasn't on the traditional ladder.
So, my daughter, I will teach you to view life not as a ladder to be climbed but as a game to be played. You will move forwards and backwards, try one thing then another and they will all have value. You will learn something in every situation and all of these learnings will make a life worth living. You can still make to the top, no matter how many times you jump off the jungle gym.
These are the lessons I am learning, and the lessons I will teach her. Yes, her desire to be a princesses will probably pass, but I will do my best to make sure that behind it is a desire, combined with the will and skills, to make that dream come true.