IT’S TIME – the theme of this year’s Women’s Conference – means different things to each of us. For me, IT’S TIME… to move on and embark on a whole new journey.
The job of First Lady has transformed me from the outside in. Today, I think of myself first and foremost as a woman – standing on her own two feet – trying to live a life that’s both authentic and meaningful. These last seven years have helped me come into my own, to find my own way, to recognize and grow into my own voice. At long last, I realize I don’t have to try to fill anyone else’s shoes. I have to fill my own shoes.
I have also grown comfortable in my own skin – and that means growing comfortable in my own contradictions because the truth is we women don’t have to be either/or anymore. We can be both sides of the same coin. Strong and vulnerable – tough and shy – confident and insecure – smart and sexy – wise and innocent. Each of us is a work in progress – still learning, still growing, still evolving.
That doesn’t mean I’m not scared about what’s next. But now I understand that my past and my present have prepared me for my future. And unlike that woman who stood up there terrified on Election Night seven years ago, I now understand that being outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean you can’t handle it or you can’t do it – and it doesn’t mean that you’re powerless. Being outside your comfort zone just means … you’re uncomfortable.
I learned that if I just keep picking myself up and doing what I was taught, I will be more than fine. I learned that when I use my voice the way I believe it was meant to be used: to help – to help women who feel disempowered, to help families who struggle to balance responsibilities of work, children, and aging parents, and to connect people with one another – I feel valued.
I want to continue to encourage women to recognize their own capabilities, their own wisdom, their own courage – what I like to call “The Minerva Within.” I believe every woman has the capability of being an Architect of Change – to be both a warrior and an instrument of peace and justice, just like the goddess Minerva, who graces the California state seal.
And so, once my job as First Lady comes to an end, I’ll listen to that little voice of mine and do the one thing I’ve never done before – the one thing I’m most scared of – the one thing that goes against my grain and my brain – against the way I’ve lived my whole life. I’m going … to let go. I’m going to let go of my need to have the perfect plan – my need for certainty. I’m going to take a deep breath – and I’m going to open my heart and my mind … to the unknown.
Because I now know that when you step out into that place, into uncertainty – it’s not a disaster. It’s not the end of your life. It can be the beginning of a journey that forges a stronger, wiser, more confident you.
I know what my mother would have told me. “Maria, there’s nothing to be afraid of anymore. Have the courage to live your life – and know that whatever you decide to do, I’ll always be with you. Now go out there and believe in yourself!”
So I’m asking you to come along as I embrace this new journey. If you’ve ever experienced your own transition or reinvention – personal or professional – how did you handle it? How did you overcome your fear of the unknown and let your life unfold? What inspired you to step into your own power? I invite you to share your own stories, your own lessons, your own inspiration. Let’s all join in the conversation as we continue to step into our own power and build our movement as Architects of Change.