For many career women success means achieving not just professional recognition but also a fulfilling family life and personal happiness. But what is the price is paid by a career women and other women leaders in the diversity of culture they represent? There are many different answers to this question and the diverse cultures are key. My answer comes from the perspective of a Latina working for a Fortune 500 company who also constantly feels the need to challenge cultural differences in leadership styles. At the same time, it’s coming from a person who looks for life work balance, whether that means enjoying time in the kitchen cooking my favorite traditional cuisine, or impressing upon my children the value and importance of their multicultural background.
“Anything you can do I can do better” was an unspoken refrain of the interviews I conducted with immigrant women leaders, researching my upcoming book. Their combined brilliance nearly triggered my inferiority complex. How come they did SO MUCH better than me? I’d ask myself (I typically take everything personally).
A lethargic breeze rose and ebbed with the tide, not quite cooling my beaded neck. I lifted my hair and wrapped it in a tight knot, so it wouldn’t cling like sticky fingers on my bare shoulders. It was low tide. Beyond the rocky terrain, the ocean muttered darkly, withholding its customary exuberance; I walked as close to the retaining wall as possible, making room for the “real “walkers until I came upon a lone man seated on the wall, an open carton of food balanced between his legs. Discreetly I moved away, noting out of the corner of my eyes, it wasn’t actually food, but more than half of a very large, creamy cake, the frothing, chocolate and other unknown sugary stuff oozing out of the box and dribbling on to the sidewalk like dog feces.
I have often tried to encourage my children to read. They are boys. They clamber on furniture, roll on rugs, tear into their surroundings secure in the knowledge that the new dawn will have reined in the chaos, cleared the debris they scatter wherever it may fall, with fresh ground for play. I want them to be still for a bit. Sit down, I want to say to them. Sit down and get acquainted with the passing thought, the laughter before it leaves the throat, the sigh before it escapes your lips. Having learned the art of sitting still, you can move.
Ninety years of living reduced to this: the slow counting of breaths followed by the Himalayan trek from bed to bidet to dimly observe the color of pee, the lethargic, sometimes movement of bowels, the hasty swipe with a baby wipe. And here we go again.
Although there were first ladies before her, Dolley Madison was the woman chosen to give the role of the First Lady of the White House, the prestige the title enjoys today. A widow, who at the age of twenty-five that had already experienced the ravage death leaves behind within her own family with the loss of her husband and her youngest son, this woman would set up the ceremonial and social protocol in the newly built White House in Washington D.C.
Regardless of whether it is a sudden sickness, fever, or an accident, a disability forces a person to face a new reality. No longer the same, he or she has to tackle the impediments that bind and overcome the barriers that appear on his or her horizon. A person in such a situation is labeled disabled.
This is not an article about the world situation. That the situation in the world is bad, one only has to read in the newspapers, or to look at television, or to scrounge through the Internet. Some things are tragically wrong in our societies; communication techniques have failed among the different cultures, and understanding or agreement among the countries is practically zilch. So, this article writer does not intend to rain down hell, fire, and brimstone about what every country is doing wrong. Judgment will come but not from me.
Living in Europe and being able to travel to most of the European countries, or anywhere else in the world has its advantages, but there are times when being an international citizen causes an unrest deep within that makes an expatriate hunger to return to the old Southern landmarks.
To live abroad will change your ways of perceiving things. You become an ExPat, a new person just as the patriarch, Abraham. ExPat is not a meltdown. He or she does not submerge him or herself into a different society and lose their personality. Becoming an ExPat is not some kind of fusion process where you amalgamate into a new culture; it is a cohesion process that moves the ExPat into the periphery of objectivity as it strengthens the experiences acquired.