I’ve been having a lot of coffee with Sheryl Sandberg lately. Coffee in the car listening to her featured in the ‘On Being’ podcast, coffee when speaking with my dreaming colleague Emily about hearing Sandberg speak at Sixth & I, coffee as I read Dr. Erica Brown’s reflections on Sandberg’s new book. For those of you who only know her from Facebook / Lean In fame, Sandberg recently penned ‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy’ with Adam Grant. While speaking with the On Being host, Sandberg reflected on how she never appreciated the significance of birthdays until losing her husband. Although she used to roll her eyes and bemoan growing older, she now welcomes the opportunity to mark being alive. In her words, ‘we either grow older, or we don’t’.
Yesterday was my birthday.
A year ago on my birthday, one of my dearest friends went into labor. At 5:30am, I was with her older daughter, excited that her baby brother was on the way. At 5:30am this year, I heard my own 3 year old in her bed, singing Happy Birthday to me. These are the holy moments of our lives. This is what Sandberg talks about, the deep gratitude in growing older to catch the joy of our ordinary days.
Something else happened yesterday. GW Hillel shared that after seven years, I’ll be taking over as Executive Director when my friend and mentor, Rabbi Yoni Kaiser-Blueth, heads off to do amazing leadership work with Hillel in South America.
You may think this is a post on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. And you’re probably (partially) right. As a mom and wife, my first question on this job was about the elusive balance of family and work. Those questions are plentiful, good ones that demand the intention and presence we should all bring to our lives, not just (happily) weary young parents considering career choice.
But this thought is on Sandberg’s Option B. We all have plans, especially the college students who I have cherished over coffee dates for these seven plus years. We dream of the roles we crave, the idealized notions presented to us on our social media feeds. And then students tell me of the things that ‘get in the way’ – the finances, the horrible internship supervisor, the troubled dynamic at home, the gut feeling that even though one path was laid out, it’s not the one they now must walk upon. When the path changes, the great news is that we get the chance to change too.
My work will now change; the cherished coffee dates with students will partially pivot to coffee dates with alums and parents and community members deeply invested in this mission of providing students the tools they need to live vibrant Jewish lives beyond their college years. But the joy of this work, the gratitude I feel in my life – to have a birthday, to wake up this morning to a new day & chapter, to see students through this most holy time in their lives – this remains.
What are you grateful for today, on this ordinary Friday? And how can the changes in your own life present an opportunity to grow, instead of a chance to hold on to what you’ve always known to be true?