In an airplane emergency mothers are always advised to put on their own oxygen masks first and then help their children putting on theirs. This metaphor has been my guideline for several years now and whenever I feel tired, overwhelmed or stressed, I repeat it to myself like a mantra: put on your oxygen mask, put on your oxygen mask... I must admit, I've done it about a zillion times in the past ten some years.
Like in April 2013, when I first learned about PWA, in the midst of my worst "rush years". I had founded my own graphic design company 15 months before and had two boys that were 6 and 4. Apart from a paid baby-sitter and my architect husband (busy working on his own projects), I had no help in managing our home and family. My days were filled with client search, project management, creative spurs and accounting tasks, but also cleaning the house, attending to the boys, taking them to school and hobbies, cooking and washing. I had not found too many like-minded friends - not to talk about support groups - in my small home town of Morlupo and I remember often feeling without inspiration, lost and hopeless.
Now, I strongly believe in guidance and I know someone somewhere knew exactly what I needed. One afternoon I came across a digital ad where PWA was searching for a Newsletter Editor. I knew Carol Bourg, President at the time, through my former job, contacted her via email and was invited to come to the April ConneXion at Hotel Aleph. The first meeting was a bit intimidating and I felt observed and out-of-place. But at the second event I attended in May, I realized it had only been my own false idea.
I started learning what a warm, delightful and caring group of professional women PWA actually was.
Since then I have lived the association to the fullest.
In the past four years I have only missed one party (attending 6 of them), two ConneXions (been to 34 of those) and one conference (participating in 31). I have trekked in Vulci at a Footloose event, practised my self-defence skills at Villa Borghese and enjoyed three invigorating International Women's Days.
I have edited 40 newsletters, helped organize several events, created content for the website and the social media and attended dozens of buzzing Board meetings. I have done the Carpe Diem Mentoring Program with Paola Devescovi as my mentor, enjoyed several Coaching sessions with Maria Banks and participated at a photography course at JCU thanks to a PWA scholarship. I have grown, learned and developed professional and personal skills. This is an aspect of PWA I have appreciated in a particular way, the fact that PWA members are seen as complete and complex human beings that need to stimulate the personal sphere - creativity, dream building, nutrition and sex - just as much as the professional one.
I have built lasting professional relationships and created logos, business cards and digital and print materials for clients. I have cried, laughed and had so much fun with the friends I have made and forged bonds with soulmates that I hope will last for the rest of my life. PWA has been the bouncing board where I have been able to share ideas, develop skills and try out my wings without ever being judged or criticized.
It has been empowering, challenging, inspiring and fun to work with this fabulous group of women and in 2017-18 I will continue to participate at the initiatives with the same intensity I have for the past four years. I am stepping down from the Newsletter Editor Board position, but only because I believe it is time for someone else to spread their wings the way I have.
I would like to thank all the courageous, relentless women I have worked with and extend a special thank you from the bottom of my heart to President Valerie Baxter who has encouraged, inspired and walked this path with me, never letting me down.
I hope other women - both current and new members - will find PWA the safe yet challenging haven it has been for me. I will remain an advocate of this magnificent association forever.