...Mom? You Made This Happen
Life@GWN with Jeanine Marie Russaw
Tell Us about Your Life@GWN
“A person never steps in the same river twice, for it is not the same river, and they are not the same person” —Heraclitus
No two days here are exactly the same at Girls Write Now. Even if my schedule doesn't appear changed, I have since learned something that will differently inform my approach to the same tasks.
It is this experience that I value most as I switch between the roles of:
learning designer + facilitator,
career coach, and
cheerleader of others’ dreams.
What About Girls Write Now Gets You Up in the Morning?
Our community, plain and simple. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, a little louder this time:
a powerful mission will ALWAYS attract the powerful people, and ours is a community of champions.
Whether I’m facilitating workshops, connecting with a core group, or engaging in a Career 360 cohort coaching call, I am but a simple messenger—calling out the magic shooting through the air around them so mentees don’t miss it.
What about Girls Write Now work Do You Find So Special?
I talk about “the work,” and how that is what I care about at the end of the day. Work is not an office, a series of deliverables, or talk about itself or even a tangible result. The Work is the reason WHY we do what we do, why we foster relationships, and all that we learn along the way.
What’s Your Superpower? How Does Girls Write Now Inform Your Work?
My superpower is asking WHY. As an undiagnosed neurodivergent, I annoyed everyone I encountered, as I couldn’t accept the “easy” answers—they simply didn’t make sense to me.
To feel secure in understanding something, I need to flip it upside down, examine every angle, turn it inside out, and run it back one more time. As a child, I was often told to “stop overthinking things, ” or “pick up the pace.” In fast-paced environments, where the GETMO-style (Good Enough To Move On) is king, asking "why" is my greatest weakness. However, to ensure a high-quality end product done right the first time...it is absolutely my strength.
When it comes to learning design at GWN, my supervisor, Writing Works Community Manager Margery Hannah, MFA, says that no matter what the topic, she knows my curriculum is like “throwing a stone into a body of water—you can see the rock hit every layer before reaching the bottom.” What others may call “dense,” or “going overboard,” I call thorough. Rigorous. Intentional. There are no half-measures in my world.
What’s the Best Career Decision You’ve Made?
Asking myself what I want; honestly, that’s the answer. I’ll explain.
I was the college senior with the 5-year plan that impressed anyone willing to listen. At age 27, I was hit with a hard truth: only 10 percent of my meticulously designed plan actually happened the way I thought it would. It became clear that I would get a lot farther in life by asking myself that question than making what seemed like the obvious choice based on my past experience.
What Motivates You at Work?
I submit to you wise words from one Mr. Fred Rogers—star educator, humanitarian, and tour de force in not only the world of education, but my personal decision to go into teaching:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
There are some who are quick to point out the limitations of these words... but I these individuals are missing the point. I’ve always been motivated by the desire to be helpful...even if I hadn't developed the language to articulate it until recently.
As I struggled to gain my footing in the workforce, reevaluating what I wanted ( my passions, and what I had to give) during the “holy hot mess—jeez, are you ever going to get it together?” years that were my early 20s, I realized something: If my work didn’t involve easing others’ pain points, if I couldn’t see an obvious good in what I was doing...I became disillusioned, and, quite frankly, bored.
Earlier, I mentioned that asking myself what I wanted was the first step in curating my chosen career. I've since codified it with the inaugural cohort of Career 360:
WHO am I ?
WHY do I show up?
WHAT do I have to give?
Figuring out the unique ways in which I help others has given me peace of mind and allowed me to reclaim my power in the face of harrowing workplace situations. Now I want to show others how to do the same.
We don’t attract opportunities...we are the opportunities.
When You were Young, What Did You Want to Be When You Grew Up?
“You will be a writer one day, I’m sure of it.”
Those words were written by the fourth grade teacher in my yearbook, whom, as it happens, I didn’t even like me very much. I don’t know where that yearbook is, but her words are etched in my spirit. Elementary school solidified my love of writing, and I just knew I was going to be a published novelist. There’s still time for that dream, but over the years I learned there are many ways of being a storyteller.
For a time, I was fixated on being a storyteller in the only way I thought existed, ignoring other interests or talents. These days, I can almost feel 11-year old me—who asked my mom for a large dry-erase board for Christmas so I could line up my stuffed animals and play “teacher” —sagely nodding her approval while writing another fake assignment on the board.
Whom Do You Admire?
My mom is the person I’m chasing. The older I get, the more I see just how far I have to go in order to reach her level of greatness. There is a reason why, after only one week of working at Girls Write Now, I recommended her as a mentor.
During the summer between my junior and senior year of college, I went to her and told her that I wasn’t coming home after graduation—I decided that New York was my city and I was determined to make it happen.
Her response? A spreadsheet of deliverables I needed to prepare at critical junctures during my senior year (eg. speak with a career counselor), their due dates, and a schedule of 1:1 meetings for us to go over my action items.
Are you reading this mom? You made this happen.
If you belong to the Girls Write Now community and have a story to share, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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