The biggest “aha” moments usually come to me at the most unexpected of times: midway through a shower, at 4:30 a.m., while sitting in a boardroom. Sometimes they help me answer the question of what I should do for dinner; sometimes they help me answer the question of what I should do with my life.
Recently, I found myself sitting in a hotel conference room-come-cinema, watching a thoughtful movie about the portrayal of women in the media. I was struck by the eye-opening commentary in the film, but one part in particular caught my attention. A veteran congresswoman was discussing a mentorship program she had begun for young women entering the male-dominated world of politics. This program paired women of experience with women just starting out, hopefully arming them with both the courage and the inspiration they would need to succeed in their career. I loved what I was hearing, and it sparked an idea: I could do something similar in the small town we had just moved to.
I was still adjusting to our move from the biggest city in Canada to its biggest cornfield. It was a bold move, one that allowed us to leave stress in the city and live freely in the country. And it allowed me to quit my job to write full-time.
But as idyllic as our life in the cornfield was promising to be, I knew that our new town had some problems. Beyond the facade of the beautiful amber countryside, factories stood shuttered and opportunities were becoming thin.
I wanted to do something similar to what I was seeing onscreen. I could begin a mentorship program for the young women of my adopted town, partner them with female leaders in our community and empower them to become leaders as well—whether that meant finishing school and beginning a career right away or becoming leaders in the home, to their own daughters. I was inspired. I couldn’t wait to begin.
But then I stopped myself.
I hadn’t moved away from everything I knew and everybody I loved to become a social crusader. We’d moved so that I could stay home with my children and write. We had done so much to make it happen. Was I really going to start working on something else before I had even given myself a chance to write? Didn’t I owe it to my family to be a mom and a writer? I wasn’t a community leader; I was barely a part of the community. How could I be truly dedicated at home if I was also dedicating myself to this new project? What would I tell people?
And then I realized that this was a place that I had been before—in 2005, when I became a mother.
Becoming a mother was such an easy role for me to enter, but it was incredibly hard for me to see myself as more. Could I be a great mother and still be a fun, raucous friend during a girls’ night out? Could I extol the virtues of extended breastfeeding at a mom’s circle and also be an employee creating award-winning copy at work? Did embracing one role diminish my ability in another? It took another child and many years before I realized that I did not have to be mother or other.
And now here I was again, afraid that if I tried something new, it would have to replace everything I thought I was.
I looked around the room. It was filled with creative, multi-dimensional women—women who inspired and amazed me. They were not this or that but so much more, and if I could so easily see it in others, perhaps, I realized, I could see it in myself as well. I realized that we did not move 300 kilometres away to be something—we moved 300 kilometres away to be many things. Not all of them will be a perfect fit, but they should at least be tried on.
Sometimes the “aha” moments come when you are least ready for them, and sometimes they come at the exact right moment, in the exact right place. And when they do, it is bliss.
Read more from Karen Green on her blog, karengreen.ca.