Ten years ago, I was graduating from a small(ish) Catholic college twenty minutes south of Boston.
I was 22 and about to get married and move to Miami to begin law school.
Ten years ago, I naively thought, “I’ve made it.”
I’ve graduated college. (check!)
I’ve secured a husband. (check!)
I’ve gotten into law school. (check!)
Can you say “winning!”? Cause that’s most definitely what I believed I was doing at the time.
What more could a young woman want for herself? Nothing more than to be a modern, real-life Elle Woods. Except, Ms. Woods and I aren’t all that similar.
Elle’s clothes were high-end; mine were (and still are) consignment, Wal-Mart or Target.
Elle’s blonde hair was naturally long; mine was faked by extensions which have since been taken out, so my children don’t pull them out.
Elle got into law school by nailing her L-SATs; I barely passed mine and was accepted surely out of pity, or to meet the school’s quota for young-blonde-girls-who-think-they-are-smart.
Elle didn’t get the guy in the end; I did.
Elle stayed in law school; I dropped out after one semester.
When we are young women, we assume that to have “made it” in life we must define our success by specific factors: the prestige of the schools we went to, the caliber of the company we work for, our job title, how much we make, how many friends we have to impress, how good-looking our partner is, and of course, sadly, whether or not we look like Elle Woods.
Although innocent, this is such an incorrect way of thinking; one that I imposed upon myself and one I fear and hope to God I don’t impose upon any of my three children.
Where did I come up with the notion that getting into law school meant I was smart? And, why in the hell did I think checks in a box would equal happiness?
It doesn’t matter where I went to school, but only that I went, learned, and completed.
It doesn’t matter what company I work for, so long as the company’s mission and values are ones that I can confidently support.
It doesn’t matter what my business card says or if I even have one at all; it only matters that I have passion for what I am doing and that I go home each day feeling good about the work I am putting in.
It doesn’t matter how large my paycheck is and how often I receive one, as the real value in life is not monetary.
It doesn’t matter if I have a plethora of friends, or if my girlfriends can all be counted on a single hand. And, impressing them? That’s something I never have to do because my real friends are impressed with me being me.
It doesn’t matter if my husband could sell-out a ‘hot hunks’ calendar, or whether or not I have the looks that would ever result in me being asked to grace the cover of a woman’s magazine.
You see, only one of the checked boxes above continues to make me happy, and that is the box I marked when I landed the man, the myth, the legend, the J of the jthreeNMe.
As a result of that check, all of these other little boxes appeared that I never knew were vital for my happiness.
Now, my point is not that you need a man or a woman to complete you, nor is it that you shouldn’t go to college, finish your studies, further your career, or take chances. I’m merely getting this:
none of us truly know what it is that makes us happy until it happens.
But happiness is not static; it is variable, and we must be too.
My reality now…
I’ve married someone that loves me. (check!)
I’ve made children with someone that loves me. (check!)
I’m raising children that are loving humans. (check!)
Everyone is healthy. (check!)
We have a house. (check!)
We have food on our table. (check!)
We have access to excellent education. (check!)
I have found a career I am passionate about. (check!)
It’s funny how getting older, getting married, and having babies has changed me. Compared to when I thought I knew what I was doing and what I wanted out of life, to now actually knowing what I am doing and what I want.
Somehow, dropping out of law school and not caring about any of the unimportant things I used to care about has resulted in newfound confidence in myself, and in the belief that I know I am capable of what it takes to get what I want out of this fleeting life.
I’ve shared before that, for me, there was this re-energizing that took place when I turned thirty. My focus changed from external to internal; from only wanting to associate with people and things that inspire me — people and things that challenge me to be and do better, and live to just be happy, by my standards.
Yes, I did get into law school, but that does not make me smart, and it never did.
What makes me smart is the fact that I know life is so much better when your happiness is genuine and self-developed.
What makes me smart is that this is a notion I am actively trying to teach to, and exemplify for, my children.
What makes me smart is that I have realized what joy is made out of — and it is only a check in a box if they are boxes you care about checking — for yourself and not for anyone else.