I don't see Estée Lauder quoted very often, but the words resonate deeply with me.
I was raised to pursue what I wanted with conviction and commitment. Dreaming was only meant to be a springboard. But gathering the momentum to push off from it isn't easy.
When I decided to quit a cushy marketing job and become a freelance journalist, a lot of people I trusted critiqued my choice. Near tears, I called my dad. He said, "There will be times when everyone treats you as if you're crazy, and as a reasonable person you'll wonder if they are right. When this happens, look at your results. If you're accomplishing what you intended, you're not the crazy one."
What he meant was, up to this point had I gotten what I expected? Were the right kinds of people paying attention, and gravitating to me? This became a compass.
I haven't stopped following it since. It's grueling work that demands everything from you, but it is also satisfying. Things I've learned along the way:
- There is never a reason to throw your hands up and say "It's not fair." Life doesn't know our rules; you just get over it and keep getting up. This is character.
- The right people do notice. They watch you from a distance and lend help if you ask. They don't just become friends; they become useful constellations in the dark.
- Pursuing your path doesn't have to mean stepping on or demeaning other people. If you enrich and help those you come across, and surround yourself by the competent, the hungry and the loyal, the journey goes from being lonely to being incredibly rich. With few exceptions I've always felt taken care of and listened to in an industry that isn't known for its nurturing qualities.
- Being honest, with yourself and with others, pays the biggest long-term dividends. It is the hardest thing to do, and you have to decide to be that person every time you come across a point of ambiguity. This never gets easier, but it's also a compass -- one that shouldn't be disregarded.
- Cover your ass. My boss at Sunglass Hut taught me this and it's another useful thing to remember. Never leave things to chance: save meticulously, be clear in your language, prepare for alternate outcomes.
It may take years before you've shaken off what you think you want and discovered what is really worth your trouble. I thought for the longest time that I needed to be a millionnaire by age 25; I know now that what I really need is a good quality of life, to live in a place that makes me feel whole, to do challenging things that force me to renew myself regularly, and to populate my life with people who are good, in all senses of the word.
Then there are the little things: that half-hour in the métro that I can read, time away from the 'net and work, a new pair of beautiful shoes, Cleaning Day, a glass of wine alone in the sunshine, time to write, falling asleep on Romain's shoulder, and that moment when I get home and our moody cat -- who hates being touched -- rolls over in righteous wait for his belly rub. These things mean so much more to me now than "millionnaire at 25," and I would never have found them if I'd stayed where I was supposed to and done what was expected.
The road is harder, but the trade-off has been very good.