In my early 20s, I was determined to make a name for myself in arts journalism, so I worked full time for a small Central Coast newspaper while freelancing for MTV online.
After work, I'd often race down Highway 101 to cover a concert or red carpet event in Los Angeles, where I'd bang out the piece by 2 a.m. and bolt back to San Luis Obispo in time for work.
Was I tired? Yes. Did it benefit my career? You bet.
My boyfriend at the time didn't get it. In fact, every time I landed a big story or interview, he became curt, even resentful.
Me: "I got an interview with Ellen DeGeneres today!"
Him: "That's great, babe. Uh, I gotta go."
Don't worry, I didn't marry him. According to author and Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, the most important thing a woman can do for her career is choose the right partner. And without entirely realizing it, that's what I have done.
Within five dates, I knew Joel was my future husband. He not only made me laugh and shared my love of pho, but he seemed very drawn to my stories about work. Looking back, I think he was the first guy I dated who asked for more details about my job and celebrated all of my accomplishments.
Journalism has been a big part of my identity since I was 16, and he got that right away. Just as I gushed over the guts it must've taken for him to leave an executive position at a tech company to launch his startup, he listened intently as I described the life-changing experiences and opportunities journalism has brought my way.
"That's hot," he wrote back in 2008 when I forwarded him an email from a source hoping to steal me away from the newspaper. "I love smart girls who get random emails from people acknowledging how brilliant they are turn." Yes, I kept the email. Wouldn't you?
During those initial years of our relationship, I often worked nights and weekends covering the wine beat on top of my arts and entertainment stories. I wasn't an ER doctor working double shifts or a high-profile lawyer with billable hours, but my job had certain requirements that took me away from traditional date nights and bonding time. Joel was never resentful.
Instead, he sang my praises. Sometimes, he even built new ladders for me, confident in my ability to climb -- and topple -- them.
"Dude, you should hire Jessica to build your wine collection," he once told a high profile venture capitalist friend with deep pockets. "She's a wine expert now." He didn't mention that I was still learning about wine or had never built a cellar before. "Who cares? You can do it," he said.
On our wedding day, before our family and friends, the rabbi revealed all the sappy details of our courtship and the reasons we chose each other. It's a bit of a blur now, but let's just say he wanted to marry me because of my dedication to work and intellectual pursuits, not despite them.
We have a toddler now, and both of us juggle a lot. Like all first-time working moms, I want my work to remain relevant as I prioritize raising my boy. Even now, my husband talks about building a website around me. I'm usually sprawled out on the hardwood floor picking up bits of Play-Doh while he is washing dishes at the end of a long day. I smile and shake my head, but he persists.
"I'm serious," he shouts over the running water. "I think it would do really well."
I hope my son ends up like him. He is growing up at a time when there are more women in college than men, and a woman could very well take over the White House by the time he starts grade school. It is not just the year or decade of the woman but quite possibly the century of the woman, and I hope he can be a champion for all of them.
Maybe in a few years, when he talks to his father about his first crush, it will go something like this:
Benjamin: "Dad, I love Sally. She is so good at Legos!"
That's hot, they'll say in unison.
Reach Jessica Yadegaran at firstname.lastname@example.org.