During a recent four hour flight I was lucky enough to be seated next to a very impressive lady. She and I apparently have a lot in common and talked the entire way. We quickly discovered that our lives, although different in the paths chosen, parallel each other. We are four years apart in age, grew up across the nation from each other, and as I was choosing marriage and children after high school, she chose a career with the military. I would proudly stand beside her on a poster for women’s rights.
Our discussions led me to think about the paths women have opposed to men. In the last ten years I have heard of “house husbands”, but never once have I heard of a man choosing to get married and have kids over a career. It’s just the reality of how the roles are changing and there will come a time (if it’s not here already) when it will not be an anomaly for men to have to choose. Granted…we obviously cannot choose who will actually carry and birth those kiddos, but wouldn’t that be awesome?!!
The progress of women in the workforce has come a long way (…baby?!). In fact, my new friend told me when she entered the military; the only female role models that paved her way had not been able to achieve a rank higher than an E-5 (Sergeant). This is not any indication that they did a bad job; it’s just that females weren’t yet prevalent in the military field. I know…it sounds like we are discussing the 1950’s, but we’re actually talking late 1980′s, early 1990′s! As proud as I am of my new friend, you will be too…she’s a very successful E-9 (Sergeant Major!).
She and I are both in career fields that are male dominated, but will readily admit that is how we prefer it. Our personality types are not for the girly-girl atmospheres, which is how we have gotten to this point in our lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “strong-willed”, “strong-minded”, “type A personality”, etc. And although I haven’t heard of men being called these names, I’ve come to the opinion that it is a compliment and I’ll gladly accept those terms. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the girly girl atmospheres, we just realized a long time ago it is not a good fit for us.
So, as I was working my way up from waitressing, trying doggedly to juggle family life, college, and gain a career, she was juggling soldiers, deployments, and military warfare. Now we’re both at a point where we can enjoy life for what it is….take a big deep breath and watch those around us who may be either beginning or in the middle of the road we just carved…dabble in a hobby or two…take vacations…and hey, while we’re at it…meet new friends!
People come into your life for a reason and I’m a firm believer that it is up to each and every one of us to capitalize from the visit. My new friend and I are in similar careers in that we work with the military. As I develop my career, I know I can turn to her for advice. As she enters the civilian workforce or maybe chooses to start a family, she knows she can turn to me for advice. We were placed on that plane, seated side by side, for a reason. I’m very grateful. Wonder how many other opportunities I’ve missed like this because I chose to put in my earphones and read during a flight instead of finding out who was next to me?