At age 7, I wanted a career. I wanted to be a nun. Each day I locked my bedroom door, peeled back the curtains, and stared out into the sun, swaying and singing made-up songs to the blessed Virgin. As my devotion matured, I began to demonstrate a new word I had recently learned: prostration. I lay face down on my green polyester carpet, arms and legs extended, until my knees, my face, and any other exposed skin was firmly imprinted with the weave and loom of the carpet. My lungs burned as I breathed in carpet fibers and countless live and lifeless dust mites. This, I thought, was success. This was professionalism.
I soon abandoned the idea of a Nun’s life, but from that point on, my ambition, pursuit of professionalism, and the desire to be successful carried me forward. I intended to grow up, move away, and make my way in the world as a career woman. Priority number one towards this goal was obvious: Cash Money. I hocked my homemade goods around the neighborhood: necklaces of honeysuckle, pom-poms for skates, purses made of yarn and paper. I sold admission into silent filmstrips that I would extemporaneously narrate. I sold dance moves that I had invented, fashion advice, and tips for weight loss. I aspired to produce my own workout video for pre-teens.
In my early teens I worked as a nanny and then a waitress. I used the money that I earned to eventually pay for private college tuition, and I set my sights higher. I worked two and sometimes three jobs and studied very hard. I made nearly perfect grades and was accepted into graduate school. There I also worked multiple jobs and this hard-earned education gave me a clarity I so desperately sought as a child: I knew what KIND of successful person I wanted to be and where I wanted to live: A writer. New York City. I would take the publishing world by storm.
Fresh out of graduate school, I moved to what I referred to as my “try-out city.” I had no intent to stay in this place more than 6 months, a year tops. I merely needed to prove to myself that I could start from scratch as a stranger in a strange land and make it work. Nothing seemed worse to me than failing straight away in the city without a care. Then, on the first day of my new job in the try-out city, something amazing happened: I fell in love. Instantly. Just like that. For real.
That was eight years ago. In the eight years since I met my true love, I stopped trying to live my life with the express purpose of being successful. I just started living. I married the man I feel in love with. We traveled to exotic and remote destinations, we climbed a mountain, I ran a marathon. We bought a house, built a fence, planted trees, and grew a garden. We designed and built an addition to our house and restored the old house together with our own hands. And now, as I creep towards my ten year college reunion, I am nowhere near where I though I would be in life. Texas is certainly not New York. My standards for success, I realize, have changed.
I believe in success measured by happiness. I believe that ambition is a kernel of pure being deep inside of us that drives us to find happiness, whatever it may be, and that the happiness we find may be different than something we once imagined. I believe that love can show us new and different ways to see and move through the world. I believe, despite all my intellectual protestations, in love at first site.
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