Almost every fall I find myself leaving Minnesota to go back “home” to South Dakota. In the years where I am too busy and my schedule does not allow that fall trip, things feel unbalanced. This year I was fortunate enough to spend several days on our family farm. It was relaxing and rejuvenating. As I get older and further into my career and adult life, I have an increasing contrast between where I came from and where I am. The vast, quiet space of the open prairie is, on every sensory level, in stark contrast with my usual everyday life. It is the prairie setting that I am able to connect with my roots and once again find my center. For me, this periodic exercise is necessary; whatever I am doing in my life and in my career, it is all based on the foundation of the place from where I came.
Where each of us came from has importance to where we are going. When it feels we are not being true to ourselves, even when we are meeting the expectations of others, there will be tension. I have found that while success requires hard work, it cannot be forced. Our greatest successes come from bettering our true selves, not from conforming to the expectations of others. As women lawyers, this can be particularly challenging. The role models we see and the people in the leadership roles we desire to hold are frequently not our gender. And for women of color, there is the added layer that those roles are frequently held by someone of a different race or ethnicity. This makes it even more critical that we hold steadfast to who we are. We may be trying to achieve the goals and norms likely set by those with a different experience, but we get to define how we get there. The very same qualities and strengths that have allowed us to arrive at this place can be part of what gets us to the next place.
Wherever you are on your journey, NAWL will meet you there. NAWL brings us together under the common mission of advancing women. NAWL is a place where you can find inspiration for yourself and mentor and inspire others. The organization strives to provide programming and support for women at every stage of their careers. And it is with the support of NAWL that you can find ways to set your own path to success. NAWL strives to reset expectations of what leaders look like. For more than 100 years, NAWL has broken down barriers and given strength to women to be themselves inside environments not originally designed for our presence.
Fall is a great time to reflect on where we have been - as individuals and as an organization - and decide where we are going next. NAWL would like to meet you on your personal journey and help you move forward. This fall and leading into the New Year, I hope you are able to find time to remember from where you came, center it into your life and practice, and together with NAWL, ready yourselves for great things to come.