Washington D.C., USA
“They are my favorite shoes because they are, like myself, versatile and flexible. They are simple but classy, easily go from day to night, and adapt to different situations and environments. ”
They belong to…
I am a 24-year old woman with a globally diverse background. My mother is from the Mediterranean, my father from the United States, although I was born and raised in Germany and Switzerland.
Given my young age, I am still in the early stages of my career. I have interned at a global advertising agency, consulted for a multinational technology company, worked in the non-profit sector, and recently started a new role in the financial services industry, albeit in a technology-based role. I am also fluent in several foreign languages, so have worked as a translator in various roles and positions I have held.
Though young, I am married to a wonderful man.
What it’s like to walk in her shoes for a day…
I typically wake around 5am, shower and get ready, and then drive to work. I have been a commuter for a little over two years now, and my current commute is about one hour each way.
My workday is filled primarily with meetings, spreadsheets, and technical project management programs and responsibilities. I am almost six months into my new job, and my learning curve has been much steeper than I originally anticipated. As such, I struggle with anxiety about the quality of my work throughout most days.
My day usually ends around 5pm, at which time I make the hour long drive home. My spouse works nights at the moment, so evenings can get quite lonely sometimes. At the end of each day, I feel absolutely exhausted; some days, I barely have the energy to even eat dinner myself. I try to go to sleep around 9-9:30pm.
Growing up in her shoes she was…
The expectations placed on me as a child were incredibly high. Both my parents built a career in international business, and we were expatriates. I was placed in an extremely rigorous academic institution, and expected to satisfy their stringent standards.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the best mother. She lacked the proper parenting skills, and I experienced significant emotional and psychological hardship as a result. My father was quite loving and fundamental in my upbringing, but enabled my mother’s behavior. Furthermore, as a result of their careers, they also frequently traveled. While I was growing up, they were gone more often than not, which was difficult.
My medical challenges made expectations more complex as well. Although I underwent years of chemotherapy, medical treatments, hospitalizations, etc. – I was still expected to perform at incredibly rigorous standards. I never sought sympathy or leeway, but I was frequently spoken down to as a result of my medical condition, and made to feel as though I was “less than”, because of my condition and need for medical treatment. My family and academic leaders definitely made me feel like I didn’t fit in with my school peers, and that I was not the most suitable candidate for their program.
While I graduated with strong grades and a bright path forward, I was grateful once I had graduated. The academic environment I was in had astounding levels of pressure, and there was constant pressure to conform, perform, and outdo on so many levels.
Almost a decade later, and I still struggle deeply with expectations. I am a perfectionist, but often so scared of making one tiny mistake that it paralyzes me from even trying or attempting a new task. I am just beginning to learn what types of expectations are normal, and which are not.
Her biggest challenges day-to-day…
As a toddler, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that affects my musculoskeletal system. Due to its progressive nature, it has also worsened and begun affecting my vision and several internal organs. My treatment consists of various medications, including monthly infusions, and frequent medical appointments. As one can imagine, this makes juggling a full-time job quite difficult sometimes.
One of the biggest challenges I face as a result of my disability are symptoms of my condition, side effects of medications, and societal barriers. Significant fatigue, migraines, nausea, mobility problems, and lack of accessibility are just a few of the challenges that make up a large part of my daily life. I also require a wheelchair more frequently these days, which poses its own set of challenges.
Another large challenge I face as a woman is my age and lack of experience. Although I spent the last two years working in technology, my new role is much more technical than my previous one. I compare it to a diving board: at my previous organization, I was standing on the diving board of development. At my new company, I have been pushed off the diving board and into the pool of software development, and I feel like I’m barely treading water. Compared to my colleagues and team members, I have very limited skills and experience, and unfortunately, my learning curve has been much steeper than I originally anticipated. I am always trying my hardest and best to prove myself, but many days I feel defeated.
Self-confidence is another issue I struggle with significantly. I experience tremendous self-doubt and anxiety, and have a lot of trouble asking for questions or for help. Oftentimes, I feel like my age, gender, disability, and lack of experience also compound this issue in different ways; I’m guilty of saying “I’m sorry” for so many things when I have no reason to, I sometimes stumble through public speaking or presentation opportunities, I doubt my own ability to understand technical concepts, and feel like I have to provide justification for every topic, question, or concern I have. Like millions of other women around the world, I also feel tremendous pressure to do it all with a smile on my face, and frequently experience feelings of “I don’t do enough”, and “I’m not good enough” compared to my peers.
What are the advantages of being a woman in the 21st Century?
The advantages I experience are choice, freedom, and the ability to pursue a career. Fifty years ago, I would not have had the freedom to vote, work, speak my mind, and more. While significant and critical issues still remain prevalent in our society today, I feel grateful for the opportunity to be able to pursue a career, drive a car, vote, speak my own mind, travel alone, and so much more.
Flashbulb memories (s) or what it’s really like to walk in her shoes…
There are too many to recount, but I would have to say that resiliency and tenacity are two areas that portray my life well right now.
Both my husband and I work full-time, and different shifts. My husband also serves part-time in the armed forces; he spent several years on active duty, and about one year ago, we chose to pursue a more normal life again. We are constantly on the go and dealing with obstacles and challenges, but continue to strive for the best – for ourselves, one another, and our lives. Although it feels like we rarely see each other these days, my husband always goes above and beyond to make my life a bit easier and more comfortable. Despite our limited time together at this point in our lives, we still strive for quality time together on the weekends.
Things you should know if you’re going to walk in her shoes…
I wish people understood that expectations, double standards, and hypocrisy are ubiquitous in women’s lives today, and in ways people will never truly understand.
Anything else we should know?
In my 24 years, I have experienced a decade of chemotherapy, paralysis, cardiac arrest on multiple occasions, psychological, emotional, and verbal abuse at the hands of my mother, amnesia, and frequent international moves for nearly two decades. Although I am frequently told I am incredibly mature and appear to have it all together, I don’t.
I am 24, and I still experience significant anxiety. I cry a lot. I don’t have it all figured out. I have interests in different sectors, industries, and fields, but I don’t yet know what I want to do with my life. I constantly question myself and everything around me. Although I have been resilient in life, I still struggle with many of the same obstacles other people do – financial struggles, job security, career development, health challenges, and so on and so forth. Through it all, I have maintained an unwavering desire for learning and human connection and interaction.
Hey you, can you relate to this story? Do you have a favorite quote or thought? Share it in the comments
How about YOUR shoes?
“This is SR’s story, it is unique, it is hers and it tells you something about being a woman in the 21st century.
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