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The Way Things Should Have Been
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This is not how things should have been, not how Susan had imagined life away from the Silicon Valley grind. She’d begun her time on the ranch believing she’d ease into each day knowing intuitively what needed to be accomplished to keep the animals, the garden plots, and herself and Richard alive. She’d imagined she could become a cowgirl version of Snow White, with swallows flitting about her head and golden poppies arrayed at her feet. But whether hubris had deceived her — had led her to think that she, a tenderfoot, could muster an innate knowledge of how the land needed to be worked — or that being a caretaker of this magnitude always required a detailed, time-bound to-do list in order to sow success, she felt the word “failure” creeping back into her internal vocabulary and it, in turn, fed into the early stages of despair.

She’d been intimately acquainted with the concept of Impostor Syndrome during her decades-long stint in Corporate America. Being one of less than a handful of women in the tech trenches for so many years had given her private pause and cause to question whether or not she actually belonged there or was some C-Suite suit’s idea of what was now codified as Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion. Was she a token? She decided, lest it drive her to bitter distraction, not to care — or at least not let on in her outward dealings and her approach to her job that she did. And over time, the jagged edges of her suspicion had been worn down into the smooth contours of a worry stone.

But now, here on the ranch, the soothing, numbing rhythm of mentally rubbing that talisman to diffuse and dispel fear had created cracks in its surface, imperfections threatening the stability of the whole. Susan couldn’t simply act “as-if” anymore, because if she couldn’t complete her chores, something much more tangible than dreams and pride would die. It was an unnerving reality, and one that demanded a full bear hug, instead of a mere “leaning in.” Am I really up for this? Susan wondered. What have I gotten myself into?

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