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By: Christine M. Wallace

Vice President Kettering Global


“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you’re a man…”

(1980s ad for Enjoli perfume)

That perfume ad, popular in the early 1980s was something that all women from my generation grew up hearing and can still remem- ber. It featured a beautiful blonde woman going from business attire to a sexy negligee. Today, those images make me bristle. Growing up in a time when women still had limited opportunities, this advertisement seemed to tease, “Yes, you can have it all!” But was having it all reasonable or even something we should have aspired to obtain?

That generation of women grew up to think that we could “do it all” and do it all equally well. We got sold a bill of goods. It meant that we ended up trying to climb our professional ladders, be excellent wives and mothers, not to mention always willing lover, make cookies for school events and keep an immaculate house. Many of us ended up exhausted, feeling like we were always failing and never measuring up to some invisible but palpable standard that was not achievable in the first place. We were often plagued with guilt. Guilt over not spending enough time with our children, not being present enough on the job and not being great partners. On top of all that, we felt very alone in these struggles with little “sisterhood” in the way of support from one another. After all, we were all trying to climb the ladder of success to the proverbial “glass ceiling.” Sometimes that meant climbing over one another.

How the world has changed, and yet remained the same.

Young men and women today inspire me with how they have written their own script for life and work balance from young fathers who choose raising their children over their careers, and young mothers who take less stressful jobs so they can be more available to their young children. I marvel today at women like my Executive Assistant who works from home three days a week to make it easier to spend time with her toddler daughter. My own daughter who earned her PhD from one of the best Universities in the country and gave birth to my twin grandchildren, managed to write a book and earn tenure, because she had a partner who supported her throughout the process. I see women who make the decision to stay in a job less demanding so they can spend time with aging parents, or more time with their children, or work on community projects. I see women who have designed who they are and who they love by their own rules and not those society has imposed upon them. At the same time, I see stress and mental health issues at an all time high and more and more young people exhausted and burned-out. So maybe things have not changed as much as we hoped.

After a 35-year career that has allowed me many opportunities. I have been lucky enough to learn a few lessons worth passing along. I was a not so rich little girl growing up in the inner city of Detroit who found her way to go to one of the best Universities in the country and buy my dream home on one of the Great Lakes in Michigan. Those were dreams my own mother not got a chance to realize or see her daughter finally capture. The main lesson I have learned is that “having it all,” it not what you think it means. My “all” is dramatically different from what I anticipated it to be nearly four decades ago. As a good friend once said to me, “our problem is that you and I wanted to change the world, only we discovered our world was smaller than we thought.”

That is indeed true. I have changed the world, but the world I changed is dramatically smaller than I thought it would be. Yet, from my perspective, my life has been a resounding success! I have had a satisfying and interesting career, lived in some great places, traveled the world, raised two amazing children and have an enduring marriage. I have friends, a spiritual life and many hobbies. As an Online professional working in Higher Education, I have helped thousands of students achieve their academic and career goals by earning their degrees. I have mentored many young people to aspire to dream jobs and during my time as a counselor in private practice, helped many individuals through challenges in their life. I have learned a few things (sometimes not easily) that are worth passing along. Let me offer these items for consideration:

  •  Remember you can always change your mind. There are very few decisions that cannot be changed. You can start down a path and take a turn at any time.
  •  Take the time to love and enjoy your life.
  • Find a hobby.
  •  Choose a partner wisely, both of you will change over time and finding someone who appreciates you and can always make you laugh is vital.
  •  If you choose to have children, understand they did not ask to be born and need to be a priority for at least 18 years. That is best example of commitment I can think of and it means you have to give up some things in your own life because you chose to raise another human being who depends on you for everything.
  •  Write your goals down every year. I use my birthday as a time to sit down, look at my accomplishments and plan the goals for the next 1, 3, and 5 years. You forget what you accomplished in 365 days. Keep this in a special bound book reserved for your plans. If you have a partner, be sure to do some of this together as a couple and create goals for you to achieve as partners in this life.
  •  Find a community that supports you and feeds your soul. Whether this is a group of people from your high school or college years, a church, AA group, a knitting group or LGBTQ community. Find a group that you trust and that loves you for who you are and make them an important part of your circle.
  •  Find a career that brings you satisfaction and that you enjoy. No one enjoys every minute of every day on the job but when you get to the point that you no longer get up with a spring in your step and joy for the day-CHANGE your job or career path.
  •  Start saving money early. No matter how small, remember to pay yourself first and invest that money, whether it is ten dollars or ten thousand. If you start young that money will compound over time and it allows you more options at the end of your career.
  •  Do not waste time on regret, understand that it is our mistakes that truly help us grow.
  •  Learn to be humble. It takes practice.
  •  Give others credit.
  • Work on listening with as much intensity as you speak.
  •  Exercise and take care of your body.
  •  Find a spiritual center in your life.
  •  Say thank-you, especially to those who do not often hear it.
  •  Give a hand-up to another person who is trying to find their path.
  • Pay attention when others need support and be a source of that support when you can.
  •  Forgive often-but especially forgive your parents for maybe not being perfect human beings.
  •  Remember life is short, we have a limited time in this world and you should find joy, maybe not every moment of every day, but let the joy outweigh the bad and negative energy.

These are not only words of wisdom but lessons to strive to bring you balance and harmony in your life. These things have made a difference in my own life and career. Most of these take time, patience, practice and self-forgiveness to find a way not to be “perfect” but to make your life a never-ending journey of evolution. Finally, the most important thing to remember is to breathe. Breathe in and take in the world around you, holding your breath will make you miss a chance to smell the flowers that surround us every day.

And as for bringing home the bacon. I no longer eat meat… so bacon is pretty far from my universe.

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