Featured Member: Emily Lucas

emily-lucas-headshotEmily Lucas is the Membership and Operations Director at the Association for the Study of Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), an organization that promotes a greater understanding of the region by fostering freedom in teaching and acceptance of all viewpoints. Emily is one of three at ASMEA. Because of its small size, Emily wears many hats handling everything from administration, procedures, event planning, marketing, and graphic design.

Having a job that looks at the wider world seems fitting since Emily spent the first half of her twenties living abroad and exploring new places. She began her travels while studying English at Penn State. Emily had always dreamed of being a writer when she grew up, but during college she struggled to have much focus for reading or her education. Friends, traveling, and the occasional love interest drew Emily into adventures abroad.

Those adventures began with a trip to Scotland through a study abroad program.  Emily returned after graduating from college on a BUNAC visa. Her visa should have allowed her to remain within the UK for six months, but her time was cut short when an immigration officer became convinced she might overstay her welcome. Unsure what steps to take next in her life, Emily let her love of literature inspire her next destination.

blog-2016-11-emily-lucas-2At the time her favorite book was Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. Attracted to the idea of living near the book’s setting, she set a course for Australia where she lived in Melbourne for a year. During her stay she worked as a marketing intern for a nonprofit and as an administrative assistant at Russell Investments, an American company. When her boyfriend at the time moved back home to Italy, Emily followed. After that relationship ended Emily decided her days of living abroad had reached their end. DC became Emily’s home. She had made many wonderful friends around the globe but wanted to find community locally.

After moving back to the United States, Emily worked a series of odd jobs that included working at the Brittle Bark candy factory in Mechanicsburg PA and a six-month internship at the Embassy of Australia in DC. This was a big turning point during a difficult time in her life. The internship was her opportunity to relocate and have a fresh start. Emily learned new skills, networked, and even traveled a little more. After a short stint at the National Association for the Education of Young Children and doing social media for American University Emily became the coordinator at ASMEA in March 2012, where she has worked since.

Emily met her future husband, Jim, at a St. Patrick’s Day party. She describes Jim’s interest in her as being apparent from the start, but it took him six months to work up the courage to ask her out on their first date. Once together, their chemistry was undeniable and Emily and Jim ultimately decided to get married. They lived apart at first. It was a hectic time for Emily, who continued to live in DC while Jim lived an hour away in Frederick. In the spring of 2014, they bought a house in Frederick and Emily made the move to Frederick.

blog-2016-11-emily-lucas-6Early in their relationship Jim wanted them to take ballroom dance classes. That sparked a fascination in another form of dance for Emily. She quickly found an adult ballet class and began what would turn into not only a passion but a core part of her identity.

Adult ballet classes were common in DC, but non-existent in Frederick. While the move to Frederick was one Emily wholeheartedly embraced, she missed having an outlet for her passion for ballet. Emily is not one to let obstacles get in her way and she was determined to not lose touch with such a vital part of her identity. She enrolled in a children’s ballet class and began working her way through the curriculum.

Being the sole adult was challenging at times, and throughout her dance education Emily has experienced naysayers. One instructor informed her she would never dance on pointe shoes. Instead of letting this negativity discourage her, Emily used it to fuel her resolve to continue growing as a dancer. These days she dances on pointe regularly.

Literature has continued to be a big part of her life. Both of her children’s names were inspired by the characters in books she loves. Her oldest son (age 3), Gabriel Robert, was named after a character in Far From the Maddening Crowd. Her daughter (age 6 months), Winifred Anne, was named after Anne from Anne of Green Gables and a character from Tuck Everlasting.

blog-2016-11-emily-lucas-5Finding a balance between her work at ASMEA, her roles as a wife and mother, and her personal identity has been a continuing process for Emily. Over the five years she’s been with the organization she has worked her way up the chain of command, taking on more responsibility and finding her voice among her colleagues. Her work environment has shifted from the typical office environment to working remotely. While she loves the flexibility it provides, she says that it has its challenges. Maintaining structure in her working hours and managing distractions from social media sites are two big obstacles Emily learned to overcome. She keeps set working hours to prevent her job from spilling over into family time.

blog-2016-11-emily-lucas-6Social by nature, the biggest challenge Emily faced working remotely was the lack of face to face time with coworkers. In 2014 Emily found and joined Cowork Frederick. The element of community that coworking provides fills the void for her that many telecommuters feel. One of Emily’s favorite parts of coming into Cowork Frederick is talking with others. Sometimes her “cats don’t cut it".

Emily’s path through life has taken twists and unexpected turns, but she couldn’t be happier with where she is now. Her time abroad gave her a larger perspective of how other cultures handle the work-life balance. Living downtown with her husband and two children, having a community of friends and fellow coworkers, doing work that matters, and a hobby she’s passionate about all come together to form a rich and fulfilling life.

And what about Emily’s previous wanderlust? Well, that might not be completely out of her system just yet. When questioned about it she casually let slide that her husband’s company has offices in Canada and Australia. It sounds like Gabriel and Winifred better keep their passports up to date!