As the parents of two young children, one of the things my husband and I teach our kids on a daily basis is that girls can do anything boys can do. (Insert our 5-year-old son’s favorite tag line: “Except pee on a tree.”)
I still remember the day my grandmother brought me outside, lifted the hood of her car and proceeded to change the oil. I was around 15 years old at the time. When she finished, she gently let down the hood, turned to me and said, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something simply because you are a girl.”
This was the woman who influenced nearly every aspect of my upbringing. I look back on a few very distinct times in my life when I have wept with such pain that it rocked me to my very core. The day I learned that she and my grandfather were killed in a car accident was one of them.
Nov. 8, 2016 was another.
As we all sat anxiously anticipating the proverbial shattering of the glass ceiling, the narrative quickly changed — the reality that sexism, racism and intolerance still exist prevailed. It was a moment we would have to sit with our children and explain the following day, while fighting back our own tears. As a woman who was raised to be strong and is raising a daughter to be the same, trying to make sense of the election for her and for our son was agonizing. Every day since, we have asked ourselves: How do we want to raise our children? What values do we want to instill in them? How can we teach them to be better than this?
We had to think about what it means to do the right thing.
Most of us who have voted in several elections know that sometimes your candidate wins, and sometimes he or she loses. Election years have traditionally presented an opportunity to discuss issues with friends from across the aisle, offering different perspectives and finding common ground through those conversations.
Those discussions simply didn’t exist this time around.
I recall the moment when I decided I was going to remove myself from the conversation altogether, which resulted in a seven-month hiatus from social media. I opened my feed to find the “C-word” used to describe a woman who had devoted her entire life to public service and was running for the highest office in the country. Whether or not you agree with her politics, Hillary Clinton is a brilliant woman. When she was reduced to a 4-letter word, it made me sick to my stomach.
For months, we were forced to watch reality television play out as the backdrop of our democratic process. Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric was divisive, abrasive and non-inclusive. Many people talked about leaving the country should he win. Many people rescinded those claims post-election. Our situation is different.
As the wife of a green-card carrying immigrant, I discussed issues like building walls with my husband. We talked about pipelines that may eventually destroy a water source for millions of people (not to mention sacred land). We talked about how unsettling it feels to drop our children off at a school each day where they are greeted by an armed police officer. We talked about raising our daughter to know she can be anything and do anything, that she was not born to be objectified or to simply create life. We talked with our son about equality. We talked with both of our children about love and acceptance.
Meanwhile, with each new cabinet pick and confirmation, the call to leave became stronger and louder. The vision for the type of future we wanted to create for our children became even clearer. We made the decision to sell our home and leave all this behind.
Leaving is a very personal choice, one I don’t expect everyone to understand. I realize there will be many who don’t agree. That’s okay. This is our path. All families are entitled to their own.
Last month, I resigned from my position as Vice President with a company I love, and walked away from a career I have spent over a decade pouring my heart into. It was a decision that did not come lightly, but it did come with a lot of clarity. My resignation marks the beginning of our journey back to Australia, where my husband was raised.
Sometimes, doing the right thing means moving halfway across the world and affecting change where we can — in the lives of our children. We close the door on this chapter and set out to write a new one. One that is full of unknowns, but is sure to bring adventure, challenges, laughter, tears and everything in between.
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