I’ve had to make some big decisions lately, and I want you to know why I made them. I made them for you, because everything I do is for you now.
I have a long history of mediocre jobs. I spent two years after college working at Urban Outfitters, which hopefully won’t exist anymore when you’re old enough to read this. (UO is a store that sells over-priced, hipster-lifestyle clothing that fall apart.) After that, I got a temp job at a financial company scanning microfiche, which eventually turned into a real job. In that real job I worked for a sociopathic tyrant, which was a wonderful learning experience, because I needed to learn how to be quiet, humble, and get through the day without complaining.
The mediocre and mundane years of our lives, of which I’ve had quite a few, teach us how to push ourselves towards better things, and they teach us how to be grateful.
In 2011, three and a half years before you were born, I decided to change my life. I won’t get into details here, but I left most of what I knew behind. I exchanged uncomfortable familiarity for scary, new things. I quit the job I didn’t like that paid a decent salary and went back to school to study science. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It made me feel smart and gave me some of the confidence back that I’d lost. (This is one of the reasons I think it’s so important for girls to study math and science- it’s empowering). After an intensive summer chemistry course, your Dad and I got married at a little restaurant we loved in our neighborhood.
When I finished my science courses, I got a job at a prestigious cancer center working on clinical trials. This was the best job I’ve ever had. I worked with smart, challenging people (mostly women) running difficult trials for a patient population desperately in need of life-saving treatment. I went to work everyday with a purpose. I was a part of something much bigger and more important than myself.
I just quit that job, to stay home with you. I want to tell you why.
You are three months and four days old today. Five days ago you learned how to grab the toy elephant dangling overhead in your activity gym. Two weeks ago you learned how to splash in the water of your bath for the first time. You are learning how to explore the world around you, how to hold things with your hands, what happens when you hit the water hard with your palm. It’s incredible to witness. I also want to be next to you when you ask for the first time why grass is green instead of purple, or why rain falls down instead of up.
Your Dad and I were lucky enough to be able to squirrel away some money so we’d have it after you were born. This won’t last forever (or a year), so I’ve had to think about how I can stay with you, and still contribute financially. This is real-world stuff that a lot of people don’t talk to their kids about, but I think they should.
It’s always been my dream to be able to make things for a living. When I see cool things online or in stores I think, how can I make that? I like figuring out how things work, and then reimagining them. But having a job like this, where you make whatever you want, seems impossibly difficult. Only very lucky people (who are more talented than me) have the privilege of making a living from their passions, right?
I’ve realized that I don’t want to teach you that.
You know what I think is scary? Putting yourself out there. Writing deeply personal things on the internet and caring about it. Waiting to see how people will respond, or if anyone will read your work. It’s scary to make things, and then think anyone would ever value them, give you money so they can have them. It’s scary to start a business, knowing that it could completely flop, and you’ll look sort of silly and quixotic for ever thinking you could earn a living that way.
But Lucy, you’ve inspired me to be brave. You’re teaching me that life is too short and too full of magic to not spend every spare minute I have, every nap of yours, creating cool things. I’m learning how to weave, sew, paint, and build stuff with my hands. I want you to grow up knowing that work is a big deal, it’s important to know how to work, but it’s also important to do the things that you love that sometimes no one else will value, things that might fail. I have always been scared of taking risks, and I’ve never valued myself the way I hope you will. I want to change that in me, so you can grow up with that kind of mom.
So, I’m taking off on a new adventure. I’ll be part of a little company where I get to create things while you’re sleeping. Maybe it will be wonderful, and I can earn a little money to buy you sweet potatoes and bananas and whatever else you’ll be eating soon. Maybe when you’re older I can teach you how to make clothes for your dolls or science fair volcanoes (I’ll do that regardless). Or maybe in a year or two I’ll go back to my job in cancer research, and devote myself to that instead. They’re all noble pursuits.
Don’t be scared to do scary things. Don’t be afraid of putting yourself or your work out there and falling flat on your face (you’ll do it over and over again whether you mean to or not). Devote yourself to people you love. Ask for the things you want and then run after them, head first. Accept criticism, but don’t internalize it. Keep trying to build the life you want, even though what you want will keep changing. Do what makes you happy, and be grateful for it.