I woke up too early on the last day of The Placement Exchange, despite the time change that robbed us of an hour of sleep. Rather than sit idly in my hotel room or risk waking my coworker who was sleeping in the next bed, I wandered over to the convention center’s Starbucks to do some work for the Women in Housing series. The area surrounding the coffee shop grew more crowded while I worked over the course of several hours. I was surrounded by newly arrived conference attendees reuniting after months, years of not seeing one another. It is the best part of our field, really, the genuine thrill of a meaningful relationship that has persisted over time and distance.
For many women in our field, those relationships are mired in impostor syndrome, of not feeling worthy of the affection and friendship they receive. Worse still is that women feel isolated because they don’t have an opportunity to connect with intention about their personal and professional experiences. There is a persistent and silent feeling of unworthiness and loneliness in our field, largely because we have not carved out a safe space to have these conversations. Throw into the mix a professional culture that idolizes women who seemingly do it all rather than providing transparency about struggles and shortcomings, we have created an outwardly warm community while women remain isolated and paralyzed with doubt behind the scenes.
Throughout the month, as posts were published and shared, I found myself unexpectedly emotional. I was sad and frustrated when I felt the project wasn’t getting adequate support from women who are leaders in our field, that some women were choosing to hit the mute button on others without hearing their stories. I was elated when voices were elevated and connections were established. I was proud when I heard new professionals talking about the series and how they were saving posts, hoarding the wisdom they don’t yet know they need while being wise enough to know they may someday need it. I was overcome with joy when an author would share with me the positive reception their post received.
When I initiated this project, I was hoping to heal my own heart. My heart has healed because I made a realization over the course of the month. I am surrounded in my work and in my life by strong, dedicated women. They are women who live their values bravely and boldly. They are women who reach down and across to help other women who need assistance. They are not focused on who is above them; instead, they are focused on providing opportunities for those who come next or those around them who need a booster shot of support. They are inspiring in their work and their words.
As the Women in Housing blog series winds down, I am making a commitment to be better for other women in the field, to continue creating spaces where they can share and be empowered. I am committed to worrying less about what other women think of me and concern myself more with providing opportunities for women to connect with one another and improve how they see themselves. I am dedicating myself to authentic, genuine relationships with women who inspire beyond measure, teach with compassion, and give without expectation. I am removing barriers for myself and for others so that we can move forward together, creating those meaningful relationships with one another that will persist over time and distance.
If you read and enjoyed throughout the month, I would encourage you to get involved in ACUHO-I's Women in Housing network. Join the online community and keep the conversation going in that space.
I would be remiss if I didn’t take an opportunity to acknowledge and thank the people who helped behind the scenes to make this project happen. James Baumann at ACUHO-I reached out to me on behalf of the association about the potential for collaboration, creating a new pathway for women in our field to connect with my professional home. Because of James’ work, five women’s posts were featured on the ACUHO-I website and many more women in the organization were connected with the project. Matt Bloomingdale redesigned my website in preparation for this project (though he didn’t know it at the time) and provided publication feedback in the first days. Matt truly gave us a space to do this work, and despite my stubborn unwillingness to use a line break, continued to support the project – and me. My husband Dan, the most patient human I know, never questioned the time and energy being devoted to this work because he knew it mattered to me and it was making a difference to others. My life is indescribably better because I’m loved by him.