This isn't the place where I tell you about how 2020 sharpened many of my ideas of what a professor does and how they do it. In case you were worried, please know my classes went very smoothly and I challenged students while extending grace and kindness in ways that I had not before considered.
The single biggest blessing that 2020 brought me was quality time with my daughter who moved home in Spring during the early hours of the pandemic and has since spent day after day with me.
Yes, we lived together for most of her life, and no there was nothing wrong between us but over a year or two we had less and less shared experiences and I let her drift off to learn what people need to learn at her age.
But then she moved back and the walls came down.
We watched Handmaidens Tale and Grey Gardens and please don't make me list all the shows here but understand we found more and more common ground.
We talk about hard things and silly things and make up a game where out of the blue one of us pretends the dog doesn't exist and asks the other one "why are you talking to the floor? are you OK?"
She makes me improve my decorating game.
I teach her the joys of lululemons.
She reads my writings.
I revel in her art and documentaries.
We aren't the same but we see each other and try to learn from each other.
One day we were almost leaving the house to pick something up and I stopped our dash out the door to say I need to jot something down that was really weighing on me.
She gave me a second and before I wrote it I told her what I needed to write:
I've always thought if I was a nice girl and was kind enough, I wouldn't have to deal with really hard things or big feelings. I believed that if I just behaved right, then difficult things then would have to go away easily.
We took a moment to talk about that unwritten rule that seems to be a "female" thing and where it might come from and how dangerous it is. She helped me find a pen.
I cannot account for all of our other hours together but one of the single most important moments of my 2020 happened soon after that.
Zoe and I were doing one of the things we do to pass the hours when someone (older than either of us) jumped in our bubble to announce they had a question but actually a statement and that was "What if women wrote history?"
A thousand years pass in the seconds that followed.
First, I looked right at Zoe and in one blink ask her wordlessly, "did you just hear what I heard heard?"
She blinked back "oh hell yeah" and exhaled and I'm pretty sure she was noticing how I was taking a second to respond.
We've discussed the difference between reacting and responding and hoo boy I am taking a hard minute to let the universe give me words and not the howling the WTF!!!!! I feel boiling at the bottom of my stomach, far from my disciplined and unmoving mouth.
I felt unseen and invalidated in a way I could never have expected.
I felt like all the years of behaving and being quiet and trying to shrink to exactly the right size to fit whatever keyhole I needed to fit in suddenly are coming apart.
I question why I have been following my mentor's advice of not writing too many books out of concern no one would take me seriously.
I question why I let myself be lead to write a dissertation on male Cuban-American bankers when my interest was in enterprises formed by immigrant women to help other immigrant women.
I question why I happily accepted being how smart I was "for a girl" by professors who were ill equipped to respect me as an academic or ever see me as an equal.
The question was a gift, and my response was a choice.
I said, "What if that was a major?"
And the person asked, "Was that YOUR major?"
And I said, "Something like that" and the conversation just ended.
When Zoe and I were alone again I said, "See that? That's how my books get their titles."
She told me to write it and here we are.