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A Woman’s Mid-Life Perspective

cuiI am grateful that Renée Sattiewhite reached out asking me to write an article for Women’s Month this year. When Renée calls, I answer. I am sure I am not alone! My caveat is that I am not a writer; but, as a component of my role in our credit union industry, I am regularly trying to brainstorm topics for communications. My “go-to” topics have our credit union movement as the subject, and there are certainly several options. I could write about our continued advocacy on some tough issues and barriers that exist today. I could also write about, for example, how we are under attack for charging for products such as courtesy pay. Another great topic would be on regulatory scrutiny or how credit unions are incorporating and partnering with fintech. All of these are relevant topics worthy of an article. But if I am being honest, I enjoy writing about more personal topics the most. And based on feedback I receive on my blog or in past articles, I find that those are the articles that resonate with people. So, that is where I landed.

Turning 52 years young this month, I find myself reflecting on past and future. There are two women in my life that are dear to me and that have me reflecting on where I have been and, if I am lucky, where I am going. Motivation to look back in time comes from my daughter, Julia, as she travels down a road I have also ventured. On the other side, is Lolly, Julia’s grandmother. I am thirty years older than my daughter, now 22, and thirty years younger than Lolly, who turns 82 this month.

Looking back, as my daughter enters the work-force post college, it reminds me of all those years of uncertainty and insecurity mixed in with excitement and energy that I went through. Starting out was hard! As a young lawyer – sometimes called a “lady lawyer” (insert eyeroll), I was often litigating against men much older and more experienced and often in front of a male judge. I would often look around the courtroom when I started practicing law and feel a bit isolated as there weren’t too many people that looked like me. Women have really made progress in this space which is nice to see. Also, I don’t recall interacting with any women attorneys of color in my early years. And while still not perfect, I now see more women of color in the legal industry. The first ten or so years of our career is so exciting, uncertain and scary.

Today, I have a front row seat to my daughter’s first steps into the corporate world and office politics. Things have definitely changed for the better in terms of representation. Also, leaders of organizations are adapting to this generation that values family and downtime. This generation does not consider reasonable working hours a “perk” but a requirement. My daughter was asked during her onboarding to share things such as – how do you prefer to communicate, what is something that is essential for you to do each day and are you a morning or evening person, etc. Some companies really try to know their employees to make their experience richer. I see credit unions also investing more time and resources into their young professionals. Today’s recruits are more vocal on their needs, and it has forced us to get over such notions as “this is how it has always been” and “I had to work these hours, so should you.” Most people are now encouraged to use their PTO/vacation days and share on social media about their adventures. Back in my day, it was a badge of honor to not use all your days and you kept any vacation experience sharing to a minimum. I am so pleased that this has changed.

In a recent podcast that I was listening to – it was suggested to look back at your younger self and present your past-self with the professional role you have now and ask yourself if you would have been surprised and impressed. This is supposed to be a helpful way to evaluate and credit ourselves with our success. Ask yourself: Did your younger self ever envision the professional life you have today? I can honestly answer that question in the negative. When I think back to myself in my twenties and thirties, I would have never guessed that I would be leading the Michigan Credit Union League and about to also step into the CEO role of CU Solutions Group. It would have blown my mind back then and sometimes, it still does!

When I look ahead to my next thirty years, I think of Lolly, who turns 82 this year. She has a home in Michigan and Florida and revels in time with her friends and family. She regularly wears heels, dines out often and enjoys a vodka martini! She always says yes to an adventure. She attends concerts, plays cards, drives a cool car, texts and posts on Facebook and even enjoys a ride on the back of a Vespa in Rome! She lives her life – every day – and she is grateful for it. She has also survived the loss of her best friend and husband, Howard, and cared for him as she watched Parkinson’s disease take him from her. On top of all of this, she is a four-time cancer survivor. She never quits; and even during her challenges, always takes your phone call, quickly responds to your text, sends you a birthday card, is devoted to her many friends and family and never complains. Even as I type this, she does not sound real, but she is. If I am half of who Lolly is at her age, should I be fortunate enough to make it, I will consider myself very lucky.

Where we have been, where we are, and where we are going are most likely all very different snapshots for all of us. I am glad to have learned to be grateful for my past and present and to enjoy and embrace where I am. As for the future, I really do not focus on it too much as I have learned all too well how things change on a dime, and nothing is guaranteed. I challenge you, during this Women’s Month, to reflect on the challenges you have conquered and to celebrate where you are. Do not overlook all that you have overcome to get where you are, personally and professionally. Celebrate you and think about the Julia’s and Lolly’s in your life. I hope you have some great examples that bring you a smile and offer some sweet reflection and hope for the future.


By Patty Corkery

Originally published on CUInsight.com

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