There is nothing better than coming home.
But sometimes, coming home is a reminder of all of the things I have to do. Everything I neglected while away. The stress of the return dampers the joy.
However, today is different. Today, there is only joy. The to-do list is still there but I do not care. For the first time, I am embracing the mess. Why? Because success in life has nothing to do with the size of my laundry pile, the dust on the shelf or the nearly empty refrigerator.
I have been traveling for the better part of the last 10 days. And I will tell you, those last 10 days have been remarkable. I spent a weekend with approximately 200 women physicians discussing wellness, burnout, leadership, resiliency, career navigation and more. I spoke on Imposter syndrome. It was not easy, but it was amazing. It was the kind of weekend that unexpectedly transforms you into a better version of yourself. The kind of weekend with a ripple effect. Those ripples have chased me around the country for the rest of the week.
I left this conference and went to a much smaller meeting in Chicago. A meeting in which I knew my work would be critiqued in front of me by strangers. In the past, this would scare me. I would feel that critiques highlighted my incompetence, areas in which I was just not good enough. This time, I forced a perspective change. I was INVITED to the meeting because I have expertise. I would be critiqued by colleagues with DIFFERENT areas of expertise. I would critique them. But most of all, I committed to learn. To enjoy the process, knowing when I left, I would be smarter. I would hone my skills. Guess what? It WORKED. Yes, it got uncomfortable. Yes, it was hard. And YES, I LEARNED. I did not walk away feeling like an imposter. Success.
That leg of my trip ended with a short time at home before I left again. I returned home and felt that dampered joy infiltrate my return. I came home to the to-do list. To a note from school because my son was having a bad week. I had too much to do at work to even pretend to catch up.
And then, a few days later, despite it all, I boarded another plane to Arizona. I cried at the airport. I did not want to go. I could not go. Too much was happening, I was drowning in life. I was NOT succeeding. Yet, my husband threw everyone in our car, grabbed my suitcase and dropped me off at the airport and told me to go. I've never been more thankful.
I landed, I dropped of my suitcase and headed out to a work dinner. A dinner that has forever changed my definition of success.
I was the only woman at the table and quite sure I was the youngest. During that dinner conversation, I found myself answering many questions about my career, my professional activities from publishing and teaching to patient care and administrative duties both locally and nationally. Then the moment of truth - what do you do for fun?
I know, it doesn't seem like a moment of truth. A point of epiphany. But, it was.
I commented on spending time with my family - traveling, being outdoors, reading, friends. The conversation caught on family.
Wait, you have kids? Yes, two young children. Does your husband work? Yes, full time, no not from home. He's also pursuing his masters degree. Hopefully, he will be teaching at the University this Spring also. No, we do not have a nanny.
How do you do it then?
That was the moment. How do we do it? What are we doing? I had to answer. I needed to know myself.
I have to let go of what is just not as important. Like ensuring there is never a mountain of laundry. My house is messy most of the time. It's not that I don't care, but a perfectly cleaned house is just not that important. It is not part of being happy, healthy and successful for me.
Our schedule is chaotic. It's messy. It's hard. But, we eat dinner together almost every night. We prioritize that time. I have beautiful, kind and well-loved children. We both share hobbies we love with our children. We have an amazing, supportive circle of friends and family. My husband and I have careers that we love. We travel, we adventure, we take risks. We fail. We struggle. We evolve. We love fiercely.
What success really means.
I am joyfully returning home. To a happy, healthy family that will shower me with hugs and love. To heck with the laundry. Embracing the mess means letting go of unrealistic expectations. That is freedom. That is success.