First, you need to know Alicia for who she was. An only child growing up in Newark, California, she was raised by two very loving and strict parents. Their tendency to hover over her resulted in a difficulty making friends; Alicia describes her younger self as a "weird, unattractive nerd who played a lot of video games and studied a lot." Despite this, her childhood was mostly a happy one, and she excelled in school. Enough so, even, to get into UC Santa Barbara as a Genetic Engineering Major.
College was a time of change for Alicia. Finally free to make her own decisions and experience the world outside, she made the most of it. She partied. She made friends. She partied. She worked. She changed her major. She partied some more. And in this, she found more and more of herself. She learned to make others laugh, and to speak out without fear when she needed to.
By the time she and her husband met and married a few years later, she'd ditched the constant partying, and had even learned to be "boring," sitting and watching TV together after a long day of work. The married life was a far cry from the wild days she'd experienced before, but she still found a comfort in it. Children weren't a part of the plan though; in fact, she'd warned her husband, a child psychologist who longed for children, that he may have to grow satisfied with the fact that she would never want any.
Then, one morning, Alicia's mind changed. She realized that she had a home, was making a living, and was stable -- all things that would ensure she'd be able to provide for a child. Together, she and her husband started a journey into parenthood and she is now a mother to a smart, sweet, rambunctious three-year-old daughter.
Which is a fantastic way to segue into who Alicia is now.
She's an important female leader in the very male-driven tech industry. She's not afraid to push back one minute and love with all of her heart the next. I've spent ample amounts of time with her and her family, and I haven't once seen her get flustered over...well...anything really. Which makes sense, as she admits that parenthood has made her "surprisingly more patient and calm...the things [my daughter] does don't really bother me. She doesn't rattle me. I'm much more go-with-the flow."
The amazing thing about all of this? Alicia is both one-of-a-kind and any of us. She's a loving mother, a fierce protector, and yet she still feels often like she "pretends" depending on who she's around. She told me once that she feels that she's a parent to her daughter, that she's then "Work Alicia," then "Friend Alicia," and that these different versions of herself are all how she stays satisfied being a parent -- compartmentalization keeps her true to herself as a parent, and as the woman behind the parenthood role.
Despite this, she, like many of us, is often unsure of herself. "I'm still horribly, painfully shy...and it's still really hard for me to get out and meet people." She admits. "Because I'm usually so loud, I don't think people realize that I'm still that insecure nerd girl, and that I'm loud to compensate for it."
As parents, I think we all can relate. After all, how many of us have come up with creative swear words when we've stubbed our toe? Or have listened to "Wheels on the Bus" on repeat during long drives instead of the usual gangsta rap we're used to? We are many people: who our friends see, who our children see, and who our bosses see. We all begin as that person we see when we look in the mirror. Any one of those alone, though, are partial truths.
As Alicia makes evident for us, a full person is made when we acknowledge the full story, and when we honor the many masks we wear every day.