#babeswhohustle

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” 
― Sheryl Sandberg

A Tiny Hand

A Tiny Hand

Written by Molly Slicker // Edited by Chelsea DuDeVoire


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I was on the phone the other day with one of my very first interns from my very first big-girl job. It had been years since she worked for me and we hadn’t really spoken in months, but she was always one of my favorites. She called to seek advice on what to do next in her life.

Honestly, I’m not in a great place right now to be giving advice on anything other than what to watch on Netflix, but I was happy to listen. So there I was, in my hometown bedroom of Mom’s house on a Tuesday afternoon, still in my pajamas and trying to sound like I hadn’t been awake with insomnia until 4am the night before.

After talking through some of her potential career opportunities, she vented, “Gosh. It’s just so hard to know what to do. How am I supposed to know what’s right?” Without really thinking of the implications, I responded “I have no idea, I don’t think anyone really does.”

She paused for a moment, seeming a little confused and asked, “Well… what is your biggest dream?” I brazenly replied with a chuckle and the perfectly impersonal one-liner to quickly change the subject back to her. But suddenly, it hit me. I knew what it was. I guess I always secretly knew what it was but I was too ashamed to admit it, even to myself.

As quickly as she uttered the words “biggest dream”, a series of images flashed through my brain. Images that were so vivid and natural that they felt like memories, but they hadn’t actually happened.

A tiny hand holding onto mine. Little heads with bouncy curls. Him. That twinkly-eyed smile of his. That front yard of that house on that street we had passed a million times.

I have never and probably still wouldn’t say it out loud - but that’s it. That’s my biggest dream, and admitting it terrified me.


I think so often we let ourselves become ashamed of what we truly hope for, what our deepest dreams are. We’re told again and again to dream big, the sky’s the limit, accomplish, hustle, achieve. We’re encouraged to have hopes and dreams to move us, but sometimes if our hopes and dreams aren’t what we think they should be, we let shame bury them. In turn, we’ve somehow been pressured into feeling Less Than if we’re not aiming for total world domination or curing cancer or reaching the textbook definitions of success. An impressive title, a big paycheck, or mild-to-moderate fame and recognition.

I’m a dangerous combination of clinical perfectionist and recovering over-achiever, so trust me, I get it. I’m also an outspoken feminist, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a certain obligation to do big things to inspire the younger girls who may be watching me, or to prove wrong the ones who have doubted me along the way. I know this sounds ridiculous because feminism is all about supporting each other and promoting equality - but when you personally take the weight of the world on your shoulders, you can’t help but think you’re letting people down if you’re not making the world of a difference.


Most of this pressure to be unrealistically impressive is entirely self-induced, and it’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life. In elementary school, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I’d say “firefighter-ninja.” I was 6, and I wanted to both save people and kick some bad-guy ass, preferably at the same time.

I wouldn’t so much say there’s been pressure put on me as much as there’s almost been a sense of looming expectancy. My parents are incredibly supportive free spirits who let my siblings and I pursue whatever we wanted, so I can’t blame this pressure on some crazy helicopter parents. It’s something that I think originally stemmed from an internal pressure I put on myself from my inherent struggles with perfectionism that consequently grew into my wanting to excel in school/music/friendships/everything. This eventually resulted in those kinds of achievements being what people expected of me, because it’s all I really let the world see of me.

To me, if I wasn’t spending every waking effort making the world a better place, I deemed it a failure. So that’s what I would focus on - putting my wishes last, and being all things to all people. The perfect role-model, the ideal employee, or the girl you’d want to take home to Mom.


When I was hired into my first full-time management role (and leading an entire department while still in college,) I was excited, but I knew what I really wanted in the long run. Any time I accepted a leadership position, slayed a meeting with a high-level executive or won over a disgruntled client, I was proud - but I still knew what my dream was. I knew what the quiet wishes of my heart always ultimately yearned for and I knew where my nighttime thoughts always escaped to.

A tiny hand holding onto mine. Little heads with bouncy curls. Him. That twinkly-eyed smile of his. That front yard of that house on that street we had passed a million times.


Really, none of these dreams were fully recognized until I almost had it in my grasp. I saw it on the horizon and for once, I was the one with the looming expectancy. I had fallen for the man who I truly thought was the partner I always dreamt of, and flawlessly, his ultimate dreams seemed to be the same as mine. We had both achieved individual and professional successes in our own right, and together, we felt unstoppable. Deemed for greatness. Stable, well-established, and smitten. We had an “Awww”-inducing love story, and tried to take all of the right steps to fill up our next chapters wisely.

For the first time in my life, I felt like I was just getting started on what I was born to do. Almost like one of those “Eureka!” moments an inventor has right before his great breakthrough. There was never a sense of “Phew. I’ve arrived.” Instead it was, “We are on the cusp of something incredible, and I finally feel like I’m in the right place.” I was ready for my great breakthrough. Until I wasn’t.

I was duped. Things fell apart, and the inevitable heartbreak ensued. But what was even harder than my whole current life being turned upside down, was choosing to walk away and let my dream slip out from my fingertips.

I’ve frequently replayed what many people did or would say to this situation:

“You are a whole, self-sufficient independent woman and you don’t need no man or kids to complete you”
“You are capable of so much aside of relationships”
“You’re still so young with so much ahead of you”
“You’re just furthering this antiquated view that a woman’s greatest goal in life should be to fulfill this patriarchal idea of a perfect marriage and family”

And to that I say: OH MY GOD. I KNOW. AND THAT’S WHY I’VE ALWAYS BEEN WAY TOO SCARED OR ASHAMED TO ADMIT ANY OF THIS EVEN TO MYSELF.


But here’s the deal when I take a good look at the heart of my big dream: I want to love and be loved.

It might be my hippie-esque upbringing, but I truly believe that the greatest thing we can ever create on this earth is the connections we have with other people. And as much as I believe I was destined for great creative and professional success and to make a difference in this world with my (moderate) smarts or (restless) work ethic, I also believe I was destined for relationship, for family, for motherhood. For my redemption story. That’s what my heart has always yearned for most.

A tiny hand holding onto mine. Little heads with bouncy curls. Him. That twinkly-eyed smile of his. That front yard of that house on that street we had passed a million times.


I think of my younger cousins. How I’ve always had this undeserved and unexplainable pride for them, even though I didn’t raise them and I’m pretty sure I mostly just bossed them around. And how when I watch family movies of us running around together as kids, I see myself doing all I can to guide and care for them - even amidst my own childhood. I think of that the scene of me as a 4th grader, making each little one hold hands around the dinner table to say what we’re thankful for. Well, I’m more proud and fond of that moment than any of my countless highlight reels from dance recitals or award ceremonies or newspaper clippings.

To me, success is making a positive impact in the people around you. And for me, I dream of starting a family of my own. I truly do. I won’t feel bad for hoping for it above anything else.

A tiny hand holding onto mine. Little heads with bouncy curls. Him. That twinkly-eyed smile of his. That front yard of that house on that street we had passed a million times.


Do I think that dream is all that I’m capable of, or all that may be store for me? Absolutely not. In fact, I think part of the beauty of being a powerful woman is being able to do it all - whatever your all is. Have a successful career, start a family, travel and change the world.

What I’m now realizing is that whatever your biggest dream is, it’s yours, and that’s beautiful. (Unless it’s like, to be a serial killer or something hateful.) It’s okay for me to still hold onto my big dream. It’s okay for me to still hope.


In the end, the him I imagined will be different. His eyes might not twinkle the same when he smiles. The kids might not get the curly hair. The yard and the street may not even exist. It may look a hell of a lot different than the one I initially envisioned, but there is no shame in still dreaming the heart of that dream.

It will look different, but I’m still there and I’m smiling. And that’s what matters. That’s my big dream.

 

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Molly Slicker is a Communications and Marketing consultant who specializes in helping brands and small businesses develop their voice and digital presence. She lives in Orlando and spends most of her free time at Tampa Bay Lightning games. She sometimes daydreams about being a Disney Channel star. Find her on Instagram + Twitter.

BABE #67: ERYN EDDY ERICKSON,<BR>Founder + CEO @ So Worth Loving

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BABE #66: CALLI MARIE WEBB,<br>Food Program Manager @ BREW Five Points

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