The year was 1999; the world was in a tailspin predicting the y2k disaster. W2k was the name we chose for ourselves—Women 2000. We were six women in our late twenties and early thirties living in the San Francisco Bay Area struggling to define and defend a more meaningful definition of success than any we saw modeled in the workplace and world at large. We imagined a holistic vision of success that valued balance, well-being, community and respect as essential complements to an effective, engaging career. We were bright, creative, compassionate and motivated.
Our intention was to become smarter as women; to redefine success and affirm those new definitions for one another; to collectively problem solve; to design and lead fulfilling lives.
We chose six as our ideal number to keep the conversation intimate but the group robust enough to accommodate the inevitable absence. By intention, we represented diverse personal perspectives and professional experience. Each of us knew someone, but no one knew everyone and we spent the first three months interviewing one another to establish a foundation of rapport and respect. None of us were interested in creating a social club, we wanted the group to be a focused and valuable resource with clear boundaries and expectations. Between 1999 and 2005, the six of us met most every month, and before each meeting we checked in by email, summarizing the trials and accomplishments of that month. Staying up to date in each other’s lives was essential to our group dynamic, and checking in by email before we met enabled us to keep our meetings focused and efficient. They also became a useful record that allowed us to track which issues recurred and how we progressed over time.
The following 58 posts are my emails from those six years. Edited lightly for grammar, I have changed only the names but none of the content. That I might publish these one day never crossed my mind. I wrote for the group, but as I say in more than one check-in, I was also writing for myself; writing offered me the opportunity to reflect on and process my experience and emotions. Each month I printed my check-in and filed it in a binder—a binder that got packed away out of sight to be rediscovered six years later. At the end of every year each of us created a year-in-review for one another. That was the only time I revisited past check-ins, and only a year’s worth at a pass, never the whole journey.
Absorbed as a whole, this beautiful coming of age story emerges—my personal struggle to find and embody my authentic self, my truth; to birth self esteem. I’m glad we don’t know our life stories in advance, it would make it incredibly hard to get out of bed. I do wish, however, that everyone had the opportunity to read their story in retrospect—they might realize how bad ass they really are. Every one of us is challenged every single day in infinite ways, minor and monumental, and whether we step up to the challenge or muddle through, whether we are willing or reluctant—we are all warriors. Reading my check-ins as a collection allowed me to fully witness and appreciate how consciously I chose and cultivated my attitude to each event and circumstance, and how each response defined my experience and shaped my future. This is what it means to create your own reality. Cliché, but true, I am surprised to see how radically I’ve changed, yet stayed the same. I’m not sure she—the young woman who wrote the check-ins—would believe that we are the same person, and yet I see who I’ve become clearly visible in her. It may sound funny, but I feel incredibly grateful to her for her courage, strength and unwavering commitment to birthing me.
Personal truth means it is yours and yours alone. Each of us must find our own way. “No mistakes, no experience; no experience, no wisdom.” I can not offer a pithy list of ten things I learned that will guarantee someone else success without mistakes, without struggle. If the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t climb it. But I can tell you that the view from the top is beautiful; the empowering sense of accomplishment, the spacious freedom I feel—more than worth a thousand tears and every fear I faced.