Thursday, March 6, 2014

Leaning In...& Terrified

As usual I am way behind the curve. Several months ago I read many glowing reviews of the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I added it to my list of books I wanted to read in the future (when I had more money) and promptly let it drift to the back of my mind. Until we went to Target a couple of weeks ago and it was on the sale shelf...we all know the vortex that Target represents. Buy one thing and it's all downhill from there. But I could not have read this book at a better time in my life and I'm sure that's the way it was supposed to be.

This book is all about how women are marginalized in the workforce and the various factors, both internal and external, that continue this cycle that nobody wants to admit still happens. I won't go into a lengthy diatribe about the really are going to have to read it for yourself, I highly recommend it!

But what struck me, as I'm sure it struck every woman who has read the book, is how shockingly true and personally accurate everything in the book is. Over and over I felt like the book had been written using the thoughts and feelings hidden deeply in myself. It was amazing and at the same time very disturbing because it means that every single woman in the United States (and most likely the entire world) is feeling the same way. And we are all struggling alone instead of reaching out for help.

"At last, someone was articulating exactly how I felt. Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn't embarrass myself-or even excelled-I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up."

I could not have said it better myself. 

All through college I felt sure that somebody would stand up and say "You aced that test but you are a fraud." 

I still feel like people are going to realize that I am a great big fraud. A fraud with few possibilities for the future. I love agriculture, I truly do, but it's hard when you don't come from a farm or ranch. Immensely hard. It's especially difficult because I don't have my family's farm or ranch to fall back on, no matter how much I wish that I did have that option. Because even though most people are happy and willing to share their knowledge with you and help you gain the experience you need, there are always going to be those bad eggs standing in the background saying "What right do you have to farm or ranch when it is not your legacy?" Another comment I have personally heard is "Just because you work for a farmer or rancher doesn't make you a farmer or rancher." 


Being the hired help is hard enough without being slapped in the face like that. So the hired help isn't really a farmer or a rancher but you're not exactly a civilian either.

Maybe I will just term myself an agriculturist. 

But can I help it if I don't know where I want to settle down yet?

This book came at such a crucial point in my life because my college career is ending. That's right, 6 years has passed and it is time for me to go out into the real world and spread my wings. But job hunting is brutal even if I am not beating a trail from farm to farm or business to business putting out my resume. Most of my job hunting has been done from behind the safety of a keyboard. In many ways it would be easier to prove my mettle in person but unfortunately job hunting is mostly online these days, even in agriculture. And when it comes down to it, I don't necessarily measure up to the job qualifications. I've got the education, the smarts, and some of the experience, but even on paper I don't compare to my beloved fiance and when it comes to agriculture, he will always win, especially in person.

A man from a grain operation who works on John Deere's for a living and stands a stocky 6'5"? Done deal. Me on the other hand? I stand 5'2" (on a good day) and gained all my hands-on experience working through college. 

I know this all sounds like the most pathetic pity party that has ever been recorded. I don't have low self-esteem (in fact have been told I was arrogant a few times in the past), am very confident in my ability to learn and ability to make a difference in whatever small sector of the world I finally land in. But I don't kid myself, I have a steep curve ahead of me. And the female condition...and every cultural and personal insecurity mentioned in Lean In, are obstacles I and every other female will have to face bravely each day. 

I will continue to hold my head high and have faith that my next step will become apparent shortly. But each day I now mentally push myself to Lean In. Lean into my hopes and dreams for the future, the battles I must fight each and every day, and come out the other side fighting. 

You don't have to be female to appreciate the power of this book...and it's going to take each and every one of us changing the way we think and react to make a difference in the lives of women in the workforce.

And for now, I will continue to draw strength from the countless Women In Ag that are out there making a difference in their communities and the internet by sharing their stories. Women who are giving a stranger strength without even realizing they are doing so. 

Lean in? I'm leaning now. Are you?


  1. I'd like to encourage you, Mandy. But, I'm not sure that I am qualified...
    I guess you do just "lean in" (I'm even further behind, while I've heard of the book, it's not even making my reading list...I have to finish a bunch of others first) and take it one day at a time. There are lots and lots of obstacles that we all face at one time or another. But, thankfully it doesn't happen all at once. Although it certainly feels that way sometimes!
    I think we're often our own worst enemy, allowing those callous remarks to sting while comparing ourselves to those with farming backgrounds. My favorite (or actually UNfavorite) comments are "you do THIS for a living?" and when people put little air-quotes around farm. The air-quotes really bug me, but make me want to prove something at the same time. Not every operation, or occupation or experience in Ag looks the same. But, I am convinced that there is a place for everyone who has a passion for it.
    Best wishes in your job search as you try to find your place. I can sympathize in some ways. Making your way in the world is really hard sometimes. Know that there are those out there hoping/praying for your success!
    Oh, one more thing...five or ten years from now...when you look back on this period of life, the struggles and the ultimate successes...I'm guessing you're going to say..."Wow! I had no idea I could do that!" Just the practice of "showing up" every day can have amazing results. :)
    Hugs and encouragement from the Valley.

    1. As always you are a voice of inspiration! Some days it truly seems like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and other days I am footloose and fancy free. Obviously this post was one of those days where the world was weighing heavily on me but you are absolutely right in that showing up every day truly makes the difference!

      I frequently get: "you work with pigs?!?! I didn't even know there were degrees in Swine Nutrition" and so on and so forth. The looks of complete consternation and fascination never cease to entertain me. I usually just shrug my shoulders and say "Somebody's gotta feed the pigs."

      I truly am blessed to have people hoping and praying for my success (thank you!!). But for now I will put one foot in front of the other and get my entertainment from the antics of the Ag community :)

  2. "Fake it till you make it." I'm not saying that you're a phony, but that really is what you have to do. Sell yourself as ideal. Most people won't question it.

    1. Colby, you are absolutely right! That's something I will remind myself of on the days (like the one above) where I question what I am doing.