For all the joys of being a Wellesley alum, there are some difficulties, too. And while the institution is understandably proud of its luminaries, those big names can loom large. “As a culture at Wellesley, it’s very much go, go, go, push, push, push,” Shelly Anand ’08 says. But after graduation, she and her classmates were struggling not only with an economy in crisis, but also with the difficulties of finding a path and identity amidst that pressure to perform, to excel, to shatter glass ceilings.
During her first year in law school, Shelly started brainstorming, thinking of ways to help herself and her friends deal with the “more complex issues that are difficult to find guidance on and discuss.” That led to the creation of Wellesley Underground in 2009, a blog that Shelly envisioned as “a space to have a counter-narrative of success,” as well as a place to explore “difficult questions of identity.” The site allows alums to celebrate each other, Shelly says. “Just celebrating everyday people making differences in their own families and their own lives and learning to take care of ourselves—that is an accomplishment that doesn’t get touted as much,” she says. “We want to serve as a reminder to alums to take care of themselves and create their own paths.”
Although initially driven by Shelly, the site has grown significantly in the last 10 years to become an “alternative Wellesley alumnae blog, centering stories from our BIPOC, queer trans/nonbinary, working class, neurodivergent, disabled, and undocumented siblings.” It includes contributions from numerous alums, from reviews to personal essays to interviews with alumnae, and also serves as a space for commentary on campus controversies. “It’s matured and grown as I’ve matured and grown,” Shelly says. “I started it when I was 23, and I’m 33 now and a lawyer, and I’m trying to figure out what it means to be successful and what’s work-life balance.”
Finding that balance can be difficult, especially when you’re a trial attorney with the Office of the Solicitor at the U.S. Department of Labor. And a mother of two. And recently signed a deal to publish your first children’s book. “I’m really good at giving advice and having Wellesley Underground and countering the culture of success,” Shelly says, “but that’s something I’m still working on internalizing myself.” She has found her own path through it all—with a little help from her friends, Wellesley and otherwise. After several years as a bilingual staff attorney with Georgia Legal Services handling everything from housing issues around race and disability discrimination to working with undocumented women who were victims of domestic violence, Shelly moved to the Department of Labor, where she has been ever since. “It’s really rewarding work,” she says, “but being a litigator and a mom is really exhausting.”
Shelly is proud of the emphasis Wellesley Underground puts on self-care, but admits that it is easier said than done. Luckily, she has a good support network of friends and family, and she has a therapist she sees regularly. In addition, she tries to work from home at least once a week. And that children’s book? It’s part of her self-care, as well. “Writing has been an outlet for me,” Shelly says. She’s under contract for her first children’s book, Laxmi’s Mooch, to be published by Kokila in spring 2021. “It’s a nice reprieve from the intense legal work I’m doing, especially with everything that’s happening around the country right now with women and immigrants and people of color,” she says. “It’s a nice escape for me to be able to tell stories that will help kids of color and girls not go through the hardships I went through.”
Shelly’s busy life means she is no longer as involved in Wellesley Underground as she once was, and she now serves as part of a kind of editorial board. “We’re like a family,” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to make it to 10 years without [them]. We’ve created this community together.”