Hello from the Other Side: Cynthia Card

Hello from the Other Side: Cynthia Card

Tell us about yourself: if you were narrating your story, what would it sound like?

Well, I’m a very loyal, dedicated wife and friend who would like to make a difference in the world. I think I have, and I think I’ve done that joyfully.

I grew up in a suburb of Dallas, the oldest of three girls. My father had a very poor, rough childhood – both of his parents died young – and my mother grew up on a farm in East Texas. My dad was rather a feminist for someone who was born in 1929. He told us that college wasn’t optional, that you couldn’t depend on a man. It was very important to him that we all have a career. I took that lesson to heart. I was always interested in science – I had great science teachers growing up – and I thought about nursing or teaching. I worked for a dentist in high school and thought about going into dental hygiene. My freshman year in college I was taking prerequisites for dental hygiene, and my roommate was in the dental hygienist program so I could see what she was going through. I had been accepted into the program and I just thought: “You know, I don’t want to look in people’s mouths for the rest of my life.” So I gave up my slot and my dad was really upset.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and my dad and I talked about it that summer, and he, a mechanical engineer, said, “I don’t really understand why you dropped out of the program.” I said, “Well, I don’t think it would be any fun.” And then he said: “Fun?! That’s why its spelled W-O-R-K and not P-L-A-Y.” And it was this big moment for me; I realized that people didn’t necessarily have fun at their jobs.

I talked to a family friend who was a physical therapist about her career, and she said, “You know, I’ve been practicing for 24 years and I love to go to work every day.” I switched my major right then and there, and I’ve been practicing 35 years. I got my masters in my 30s and it’s been very exciting and I’ve gotten to meet some wonderful people. And, guess what, it’s really fun!  

What were the hardest decisions you had to make in the past? How did those decisions turn out? Any regrets?

Well, we chose not to have children. Neither my husband nor I had that instinct. I get a lot of nurturing through my patients; I have a couple I’ve treated for 32 years. We have a lot of kids in the neighborhood that I’m close to and we get to be the cool aunt and uncle. I don’t have any regrets about not having kids. It afforded us both a lot of opportunities to pursue different things in our career. Both of us have been able to go out on our own – it would have been much harder to do that if we worried about feeding a family.

I was a little afraid early on about going out on my own. I was too tied to the 'you work for a company' mindset. That’s something I would tell people: “Don’t be afraid. If you fail, there are other jobs out there, you can start over.”   

Are there things that you spent years stressing out about that turned out to not really be that big of a deal?

I think we’re all a little too worried about what other people think.

A lot of things about work: you think things are going to be tough, whether its financially or getting that next promotion, and I shouldn't have spent any time worrying about all that. Take a deep breath, do yoga, take a walk. Things will work out. It may not be what you planned, but chances are it will be better.   

What do you wish you had spent more time doing over the years?

Not anything, really! My husband and I have been married 32 years: we met on a blind date – never be too scared to go out on a blind date! We’ve spent a lot of time together, we have mutual interests, we’ve restored a house built in 1893. We both have hobbies that we enjoy and we enjoy our time at work. Enjoy your time alone, enjoy your time with friends, and enjoy doing things outside of your job.   

What would you say your highlights have been?

Meeting my husband – we just have a really wonderful time together. I’ve seen a lot of marriages, and I don’t see too many much happier than ours. We have a lot of fun and interesting discussions and have been fortunate to be able to travel.   

And the low points?

Well, you don’t think about it when you’re younger, you just assume that your health, your parents’ health, will be just fine. And it will change and surprise you in a heartbeat. I should know, working in my career, because I see lives change quickly. But when it happens to your family, it’s stressful. And I don’t think anyone can prepare for that.  

What do you think has changed the most for women over your lifetime?

Maybe because I grew up in Texas, I feel like we were a little slower to change. For instance, I didn’t even think about going to dental school or medical school because I didn’t see women there. I didn’t see women doctors.

When I was a senior in high school, we played this game in my government class. We were divided into groups of six and told that we had landed on a desert island. You had to create a plan for that island and you had to come up with a government for your island. My team chose me to lead our island government. At the end of two weeks we had to give a report on our island and talk about how our team interacted. My team talked about picking me as a leader, and the teacher looks at me and says, “What? Are you one of those domineering women?” Everyone laughed, including me. But it hurt. Would he have said that to one of the boys who was chosen to lead?

There are so many opportunities now, in science, in business, and that’s exciting. There will always be people who want to bring you down, but there’s no reason you can’t do whatever you want now.  

What would you like to see continue to change and improve for women?

I think women need to embrace technology – it’s here to stay. I don’t think robots are going to take over, but it’s going to make a big difference. If we learn how to work with technology, our lives will be better. We should embrace it. 

What words of wisdom do you have? 

Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Always stay curious. Learn as much as you can about your field. Listen to people. Nurture friendships – people your age, people older, and people younger than you.   

Where do you see yourself in five years, ten years? What does "retirement" look like to you?

Bob and I are both self-employed, so we’re not really thinking about retiring any time soon. And that’s fine. People live a long time, so we’ve got a long time. We both like our careers. I could work fewer hours or do some different things.

My friend Dorothy is an inspiration to me: I see her at concerts and art openings, and she’s interested in photography and religion. She’s also a Physical Therapist. She’s British and has properties in the UK and goes over there for a couple of months every year to spend time with family and friends. When she wants a new camera lens or more travel money, she’ll work more hours. And she’s EIGHTY FIVE!! I keep telling her not to work so much, and finally, this past January, she decided to put her license on hold. I said to her, “You know, you’re such an inspiration to me.” And she replied: “Really, why?”

Yeah, I want to be like Dorothy.

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