Success in Slow Motion
My first career ambition: a singing, traveling veterinarian — later scaled down to just “singer.” Then, an actress, a novelist, a drama teacher, a psychologist? An English professor, a journalist, a nonprofit marketing director, can you make a living petting cats? A food critic. A museum — something. Someone who will make a lot of money.
I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately, and happiness, and money, and how that all relates and what it all means. As you can tell, I’m an indecisive person. I flit from idea to idea to idea but nothing ever sticks.
When I was a kid I didn’t understand why my dad quit his jobs all the time. They all paid well and had great benefits. He was respected by management and co-workers alike, and was offered promotions that he didn’t take. But he always left after a little while. I think we’re more alike than I realized.
I’ve always had this conflict in me, pulled one way by ambition and the other by ambivalence. I vividly remember wanting to go to Harvard as a child, though I have no idea who put the thought in my head. The first time I didn’t get straight As on my report card I was so devastated I threw myself to the floor crying, chest aching, certain that this was the beginning of the end for me, that I’d reached my peak in the seventh grade.
The future I envisioned for myself could be different everyday but for the common thread of notoriety. I wasn’t going to be an actress, I was going to a famous actress. If I was going to be a professor, I would be the top of my field.
Another thing that never figured into the narrative: happiness. I never considered what I would be doing when I was not on the stage, or in the classroom or writing my new novel. I never thought of who I might share my life with, or what my hobbies would be.
When I met my husband, suddenly my priorities shifted. For the first time I started to truly appreciate all of those in between times that never made it into my daydreams. The late nights bar-hopping across downtown Orlando, watching “Eternal Sunshine” in bed, going to my first music festival. Meeting people outside my comfort zone and trying new experiences that didn’t fit into that polished image I had created for myself.
In terms of the future of my career, today I’m still indecisive as ever. Over the last few years I’ve worked in marketing, student administration, finances and HR. I have some ideas for what I want to do in the next few years but they’re always in flux.
Now though, I don’t wake up in the middle of the night worried about what I will be doing in the next five years. When I have those daydreams about the future I see myself doing much of what I do now on a larger scale — seeing concerts, trying out new restaurants, maybe traveling the world instead of just the eastern coast of the USA.
Success for me looks like valuing my free time, pursuing the interests I’m passionate about regardless of where they might take me, and hopefully making enough money to be able to experience all that I can out of life, even if it’s on a budget. I don’t need to be well known, but I do hope to be known well by those who mean the most to me.