Mother’s Day, Leadership & Living in the Empty Nest in San Francisco

San Francisco Bay – Photo by Brad Helms

When my daughter returned to college in September I officially began my next chapter. My husband of 20 years had died years earlier and my older daughter had moved to Nob Hill leaving just my college senior coming and going, but when she packed up and headed back to school it was time for me to make my own move. My nest on the 16th floor in San Francisco was truly empty and I was alone for the first time in my life. I embraced it, but it felt very strange to not have other people from my mother to my husband to my children depending on me. I felt unmoored.

I gave myself insurance against loneliness by taking on many career obligations. I was teaching three classes at UC Berkeley and working part-time at Nordstrom. I also had a policy that if I was invited somewhere then I would go no matter how exhausted I was. Because of that, I’ve had some really fun and interesting dinners at China Live, Charmaines, Foreign Cinema, Bix, Cafe Zuni, and Absinthe to name a few.

I took everything on and packed it all in. I was officially over-scheduled and worked around the clock. By January I was having trouble keeping up, so I followed the Whole 30 diet and quit drinking, but I was still working 80 hours per week. This went on for another two months, but I must admit I did feel better and it set me on an excellent course of awareness regarding what I eat. I loved working at Nordstrom and later Club Monico and learned so much that I will export to my brand Ocean SF. I had never really worked in retail before, so it was an experience, especially in San Francisco where crime is rampant. During this time I saw a massive amount of erratic behavior, theft, a few suicide attempts, law enforcement tackling shoppers, people smoking meth in the elevator, and so on. One customer called me a dumb white bitch. She was carted away by security. My co-workers kept insisting that it would get better, but what I saw was a steady decline. You can read my article on the death of a shoplifter here. Being emotionally and physically exhausted by working so hard I finally decided to take some time to focus on myself and ended my work in retail. However, I made some amazing friends that I will hold onto and met people from all over the world. All things considered, it was a wonderful experience.

After that, I started thinking about what I wanted to do next, what I really love, and where I can provide the most value. In this next chapter what I do really matters because I have had the privilege and opportunities to gain so many useful skills. Consulting, teaching, and mentoring are natural next steps for me that will provide the most impact and utilize my background in the most useful way.

I am speaking at the Women of Silicon Valley Conference, in the company of some of the most amazing women in business today. I have also been asked to write a leadership book with Forbes Publishing and have been talking to investors to finally get Ocean SF the funding desperately needed to take this brand to the next level. I want to focus on my own team but also work with corporations and individuals to develop great leaders.

I’ve been able to organize my time around what is important to me while also having time for myself. I’m spending time getting reacquainted with myself. The person I was before I became a mother. My empty nest is full of the books I love, the new friends I’ve made, the work I enjoy, and the things that I cherish most like my Expresso machine.

On this special day, I want to note that there is a treasured aspect of my character that being a mother created in me. At the end of the day no matter what else I do in life my role as a mother has been the most important to me. It has caused me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have known possible. I love this part of myself most of all and also as I age I value the fact that I have been here a long time and have so much to offer in terms of experience and lessons learned. In my next chapter, I bring my wealth of experience to the table to help others. At the Women of Silicon Valley Conference, I will be speaking on Leadership Branding and working with women in the Career Advice Hub. I am now more than ever here to serve, not just my family who needs me less and less, but the wider universe.

Happy Mother’s Day. Love and blessings.

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