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i pull up to an unfamiliar, imposing office building off the tollway and scroll through my emails in a blind panic.  is this the right location?  did i accidentally show up at the corporate office?  this doesn't look like a medical practice.  my cheap h&m blazer is too tight in the armpits.  it's only march in texas but i am starting to sweat.

call this number when you arrive, the recruiter had emailed me.  i call, and a man tells me to hang tight.  a minute later, he comes striding down the hallway to meet me.  he is in his early forties, but has a boyish, grinning charm.  he wears a perfectly tailored suit with ease.  the word 'rakish' comes to mind.  

i'm brandon, he introduces himself assertively.  i try to shake his hand with a practiced confidence that says BUSINESS but i end up sort of hopelessly squeezing it with a clammy tenacity that says OCTOPUS.  he leads me into a clinic that does not look clinical, into an office full of rich woods and gold accents.  i perch on the edge of a couch trying to hold my posture into a position that isn't my native gelatinous slouching.

brandon leans forward conspiratorially and asks: so tell me, mimi- can you talk shit?

nearly four years later and i still remember this job interview like it was yesterday, can see myself in those polyester pants and black ballet flats (i didn't even own heels), desperate to land this job and steer myself out of the no man's land between graduate school and the adult workforce.  only a few months after my optimistic promotion to management at the surgery center, my new boss had swept in through a regime change with leadership books, disparaging comments about my clothing, and a way of delivering simpering criticisms through insincere smiles that made my skin crawl.  and when i had one semester left until graduation, the dolores umbridge of healthcare pulled me into her office and threw down an ultimatum- school or work.

both, i thought, with an uncharacteristic anger that burned deep.  and i started the job hunt.  i interviewed with a cardiology group in search of an office manager, escalating through several rounds until i was happily chatting with director of operations about the future of healthcare technology.  well i'll be honest with you, mimi, he told me at the end of our interview.  you're obviously very qualified and i think you'd do a great job.  but i have a feeling you won't settle until you're the vp of a company.

nooooo, i wanted to cry out in protest.  no i am very unambitious!  i just want enough money to preorder video games and buy indian food. 

i didn't land the cardiology clinic.  but two weeks later, i sat in that ornately decorated office and met brandon and johnny.  and two weeks after that, i started the first day of my new life.  

and then these two men became collectively "the boys" to me, and their clinic became my second home, and all of the nonstop expansions and purchases and endeavors far beyond what i originally signed up for became my obsession.  not so much healthcare management or human resources or revenue cycle, not the actual substance of what this job entailed- but what it demanded of me.  more time.  more focus.  more presence.  more integrity.  more loyalty.  more strategy.  more resilience.  more more more.  and it never got easier but somehow i always got better.

and this whole entry so far seems apropos of nothing because this isn't about pregnancy or parenthood but it never fails to surprise me that somewhere along the way, my meandering lack of ambition that always made me think idk maybe one day i'll just be a wife or work at a gamestop or tell my parents i'm in med school but actually go to optometry school became a honed and practiced priority in my life.  motherhood widened that lens, but didn't refocus it.  these days i am working longer and averaging 2 hours of face time with james.  it's not the ideal setup, not when little man is becoming so vibrant and lively and social- but it feels like the inevitable push in the endless ebb and flow of work-life balance.

and i often remind myself- the self-development of my career path bleeds over to my growth as a mother.  learning patience, learning flexibility, refining communication.  remembering that change is the only constant, that pragmatism sometimes needs to trump principle, that empathy will always be a valuable asset.  and i didn't accept the ultimatum between school and work back then, and i don't accept it between work and baby now.  

after 16 years in practice and 14 as the CEO of his professional association-turned-multidisciplinary group, johnny appointed me as his COO this monday.  i have been fulfilling this role de facto, but receiving the recognition of the title was a gratifying moment.  it was also a beacon of reassurance- becoming a mother doesn't mean giving up your professional edge.  

both, i thought, with an unfamiliar pride that swelled in my chest.  i arrived home late that night and watched james fall asleep to the gentle tinkling of his tinylove mobile.  it occurred to me that there is still so much ahead of us, so many more late nights at work, doctor's appointments, school plays, deadlines, acquisitions, pta meetings, board meetings, unforeseen crises, unscheduled disruptions.  there's a long game of balancing acts up ahead for me, ian, and this darling little dude with the bright eyes and loud yelps.

but here, right now, in this very moment in time, we are all doing a great job.