Twelve women gathered around the dining room table. We’d been meeting for several years to talk about end of life issues. Now we were moving in a new direction. This evening we’d been asked to write about a “branching” time, a time when our lives took a turn and we began walking a new path, for some of us an unexpected path, for some an unwanted one, for others a path that was planned in advance. In any case, after that branch our lives were never the same.
I thought we knew each other well after so many sharing sessions, but tonight each woman opened up about a time in her life she hadn’t shared before. Each talked about their feelings, their fears and aspirations, their encounters with the unknown. One talked about going back to work and how it ended her marriage, another about the loss of a first love, another about her uncertainties concerning retirement. Several women had chosen to combine marriage with careers and told how they’d gotten their first jobs. I heard how determined they were to get exactly the positions they wanted.
I was deeply touched by each woman’s openness and willingness to share both dark moments and successes. I know them now, in a different, more profound way.
We are the first generation to leave the kitchen for the boardroom. We are clever and brave, assertive and proud of ourselves and our accomplishments. We’ve accepted our losses and embraced new lives. Our stories are different from our mothers’. We are pioneers, a special group of women who struck out into unknown territory. Yogi Berra famously said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” We all reached our “forks,” and whether we turned left or right, we strode on. Many of us took the road less traveled and forged new paths for the women who will come after us. In the roads we chose and the obstacles we overcame, we are all women of courage.