O, The Oprah Magazine | From the September 2005 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
First Lady of the United States
I've come to realize I'm stuck about every five years, when I hit a point of stagnation and need to grow. The first time, I was working at a big, prestigious law firm, and I wasn't happy. I needed to consider what I really cared about, which was work that had a community-based feel, using my education to benefit others. So while I was still at the firm, I spent about a year meeting with people like general counsels for universities. The goal was to find out, "What do you do? You're a lawyer, you're not in a firm, how did you structure your life?" I developed such an interesting network that people started calling me with job offers. I ultimately decided to become an assistant to the mayor of Chicago. It required a temporary financial setback, but in the end, when you're living your dream, the economic stability comes.
I've also had stuck moments in my marriage. Going from being an independent professional to being the mother of two little kids with a husband in politics, I was feeling like Where am I in all of this? I was spending a lot of energy focusing on fixing my husband, fixing the way I mother. What I finally recognized is that I wasn't spending enough time on me. One thing I did was take my diet and exercise into my own hands. It required getting up at 4:30 A.M. and working out and making sure that every day I did something for myself, as opposed to worrying, Well, why is Barack now going to run for that office? My happiness isn't connected to my husband's or my boss's or my children's behavior. You have control over your own actions, your own well-being. And if you spend the energy on that, you get unstuck.
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