I have a friend in my discipline whose mother recently became ill. It is a relapse of cancer that she and her family thought had been resolved. It goes without saying that her family is devastated. This friend is also a professor who is struggling to maintain her classes and research while attending to the needs of her family. Her relationship to her department is strained, to say the least. She is asked to do too much, taken advantage of too often. Although she loves her work, it sometimes takes over her life. She is also unmarried by choice, as she has walked away from men who did not understand her as she needed to be understood. Now with her mother ill she is beside herself, worrying on some level that she did not attain a husband and family by this point in her life, and now she may never get to share that with her mother. That the dreams for her life that her and her mother shared will never come true.
There are three things I want my friend to know. Three things I want to share because I love her so much.
One: As a mother I can tell you, we want the very best for our children; the best careers, the best mates, the best life can offer. The very best person for you is the not only the one who loves you for who you are, the very best person somehow reveals the best (and sometimes worst) version of you possible. The best mate is the one that reveals you to yourself. You never feel as though you are losing yourself by loving them. Never trying to be someone you are not. Instead, with the best person, you feel more yourself than you have ever been and that can be pretty glorious. Although you may have had opportunity in your life to share it with someone and by proxy make your family happy that you were “taken care of” – it would not have been the “best” situation for you. And that would not, could not be what your mother would want under any circumstance.
Two: Funny how you are so discriminating with men and so forgiving with your department. Your demands are not even across the board. But I am here to say that the two situations are not actually so different from each other. You want to work at a place that does not take you for granted, that does not seek to change you into something you are not, that not only appreciates who you are but considers it an honor to be working with you. At any level. You want place that “understands” you. Where you feel your life’s work more of a calling than a job. I recently left an appointment where I felt like I was trying to be someone I wasn’t. When I began work at my new appointment, I was worried that it would be more of the same. Then something miraculous happened – they began to reward me for being me. They were excited by my ideas (which I prepared to do battle to keep) and not only praised me for them but found ways to support me in bringing them to fruition. All with the disposition that it was second nature, as if to say “why wouldn’t we do this?” Revelation.
Three: You are more than enough just as you are. Your mother isn’t worried for you. She knows you will be successful in everything you choose to pursue. She knows this because she knows you, she understands you. She reveals you to yourself, now more than ever. You deserve the best because you are the best. What your mom knows for sure? You are already the dream delivered.