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The Greatest Transition of My Life

Why our Associate Editor switched careers within a year of becoming a mom.

One of my best friends once told me that life seems to turn a new page every ten years or so. At the time, I was in my late-twenties and remember thinking: Well, I guess something should happen in my early 30s since getting married at the ripe old age of 23 was pretty pivotal. I didn't spend the next few years peeking around corners, expecting a major life event to upturn everything. In fact, I completely forgot her sage insight until my baby girl Kaia arrived and threw a beautiful wrench in my plans. 

I love planning. I plan events (like our wedding!), our family's monthly social schedule and, maybe more than anything, my life trajectory. I more or less intended to spend at least several years enjoying being married without kids, have Kaia when I turned 31, and stay on the right track career-wise. And by all standards, I was: I had gone to my dream college to study architecture, worked at a variety of firms that gave me a very diverse and detailed background in project management, and was planning to rise to the top at my most current company. The people, the work (designing and opening boutique hotels), and the set-up (short commute, which is everything in L.A.) was perfect on paper. 

In actuality, I felt uninspired at work, and like I was running on creative fumes. I snapped at my team all the time, was quick to blame consultants when they made mistakes, and rarely generated new, useful ideas. At home, I managed to muster energy for Kaia (because moms really do gain superpowers) but sensed that the hormones and adrenaline were just that... pure adrenaline. My husband definitely got the dregs of my energy and focus while I was constantly fighting off some sickness and experiencing constant, extreme stomach cramps. In short, I felt like I was failing everyone around me and in particular, myself. 

Let me pause and say that I don't expect to be the perfect parent and designer all the time (or even most of the time). But when the things I cherished the most, like my physical, mental, and spiritual health, quality time with my family, creative outlets, and a solid espirit de corps at work are all suffering, I knew I needed to make a change. Once I finally recognized how unhealthy my situation was, I still didn't want to take the action that was needed to get to a healthier place. As someone who is pretty self-aware and quick-to-act, I balked because I couldn't let go of the cool, new mom with the cool job persona

I had built a definition of "cool" based on a combination of what my pre-mom self had laid out, and what Sheryl Sandberg did in her own life (I love her book Lean In)—not who I am today. "New Mom Marilynn" needed a job opportunity that would allow her to thrive on productivity and creativity but did not make her the lynchpin of time-sensitive decisions for multiple building projects across the country. She wanted to work with females (and ideally, males) who understood and supported the constant balancing act of working with a baby. And after practicing architecture for 8 years, she wanted the novelty of learning a new trade or industry because part of her creative rut came from having to make similar decisions over and over again. 

Changing careers was a painful process that involved stopping even when life seemed unstoppable, taking stock of the layers of expectation I had built up over time, and establishing new priorities in this season of life.  I'm extremely fortunate to have found a job that allows me to be fully creative, prioritizes family and health over deadlines, and has a fantastic team of people who are positive, supportive, and oh-so-talented and inspiring. The change definitely required a financial shift and some changes for my husband's priorities and career as well, which can both be shared in another post, but suffice it to say, I am loving "New Mom (and Editor!) Marilynn." 

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