Ambition Is Selfish

The cost of my ambition had never occurred to me until I had a child.

We’re headed to a two-day workshop with some prominent soil and covercrop scientists whose work I’ve been interested in for a long time. I was eager to go, to show how keen we are to be involved in this work, to learn and build our skills.

But today I realized this is a lot of work, and a lot of it is stuff that I can’t personally do, so it falls on someone else’s shoulders. Not to mention that having a 4.5 month old baby might just be kind of disruptive at this sort of thing. I had considered, but not fully appreciated, that until today, when I briefly considered backing out last minute. We booked two tickets because I can’t go alone – I still can’t carry her 17 lbs up and down stairs, or load/unload the stroller from the car. Just me and her alone… too hard right now. And I don’t want to leave my husband at home anyway because I’ve gotten to go to so many of these things, and he never does: so I made it clear this time. Either we all go, or no one goes.

But other people paid for their tickets, too. In fact, my ticket is covered by an organization that is willing to work-trade part of the cost. Great — but that means if I back out, they’re up the creek for that part of the work. Someone that’s traveled hours to come to this workshop, saved for months especially, doesn’t likely expect, nor want, a fussing squirming infant at the back of the room.

Part of me wants to say: too bad. This is what a whole society looks like, kids and families and all. But at the same time… it’s not. There is an amount of respect due a group of people that have found time amongst their many obligations and responsibilities to come together to learn, share ideas, and improve their practices. So well yes, I have a right to be there, and there’s a whole conversation due here about women not being able to attend workshops and fully participate due to lack of childcare, I don’t have the right to disrupt, or to let our child disrupt, others’ learning. That’s entirely fair.

So we’re going to go – even though, in hindsight, I think we should have probably taken a pass (given that it will also be chilly and rainy) – and do our best. I’m going to likely sit out the field portions and just hang with baby in the house – let her nap, feed, play a little, while L. can get out to the field and listen attentively. I’m going to do my damndest to keep her quiet and occupied, or to let others help with that if they want to (because some people genuinely do want to).

And next time, I’ll be thinking about that more carefully before I commit. What is my wanting to do this, to show up, be seen, to learn and to move forward, costing those around me? Is it worth it? Do they think it’s worth it, and do they get something out of it for their effort? There’s a fine line between letting someone else dictate what one does or doesn’t do; and deciding for oneself to take full responsibility for their capacity – or lack thereof – to do the thing they want to do.

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