I can remember the first time I really noticed Mika Brzezinski. It was the day Paris Hilton was released from jail. I was up early flipping through the cable news channels looking for, well, news. Hilton was the lead story everywhere except MSNBC. That’s because Brzezinski was refusing to read the story. In fact, she destroyed the story several times with it finally ending up in the shredder. I quickly became a fan. Brzezinski is both thoughtful and thought provoking. She’s also not afraid to give her opinion.
Her autobiography, All Things at Once, is a brutally honest memoir about her life choices and the lessons she’s learned along the way. She writes about her childhood, her career, being a wife and a mother. I laughed at the story about her mother serving “road-kill” at a dinner party for dignitaries. I cried when she described seeing her daughter for the first time after reporting from Ground Zero.
What I think about most, though, even months after finishing the book, is this question and answer from an interview Brzezinski did with her mother (emphasis mine).
“Be honest,” I said, when we’d reached a point of pause in our discussion. “Do you see yourself first as a mother, a wife, or an artist?”
“Oh,” my mother said, with her wonderful strong European accent. “That is impossible to answer, because I am all those things at once.”
“What I took away from this public exchange with my mother was that it’s right and good and necessary to carry all these different pictures in our minds as we move on in the world, but it’s also right and good and necessary to step back every once in a while and bring just one of those pictures into focus. To see everything you believe yourself to be, even if you can’t be all those things all the time…Yes, we can be all things at once, my mother told me. In fact, we must. But we must also accept that we can’t do everything all at once. It’s about mapping out, navigating, and constantly renegotiating your career, marriage, and family plans. All equally important – and all, ultimately, at once.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to figure that out for myself. Society likes labels. They make things easy. When people ask, “What do you do?” they’re usually looking for a single answer. But labels can be tricky. When we focus on just one, we can lose what makes us our true selves.
You may think Brzezinski made the wrong choice sacrificing time with her children to pursue her career. On the other hand, you might think she’s crazy for making career sacrifices to have a family. Either way, I think you’ll find yourself taking another look in the mirror asking, “Who am I?” and thinking, “Yes, I can be all these things at once.”
I’m looking forward to reading her latest book: Knowing Your Value.