“A cowgirl gets up in the morning, decides what she wants to do and does it.”
- Marie Lords, 1861
Here's what I've learned in the last few months: If you were born in the wrong month, forget it. Don't even bother - you're doomed to underperform. God forbid you're one of the kids who ate the marshmallow too soon,* a sure sign that you'll end up a fat underachiever with no prospects. By the time you make it to eighth grade, you'll be traumatized, and then tortured and possibly permanently damaged by high school. Assuming you are able to navigate college without developing a substance abuse problem, you have about nine years to set the course your life takes, so if you screw that up, you'll pay. Forever. Meanwhile, women can't have it all - no, wait - they can, but if they want to get to top, they need be more assertive.
Excuse me, but am I alone in feeling slightly less than assertive after hearing all of these dismal portents? (Apparently, I'm not - I just read the wonderful Belgian Waffle's reaction to this particularly gruesome New Yorker article.)
It seems that every time I open a book, read a magazine or listen to the radio, the Thirteenth Fairy tells me it's all Horribly, Horribly Wrong. It's a wonder we aren't all paralyzed with fear at every turn, terrified to take a misstep in pursuit of a narrowly-defined vision of happiness and success. Apparently, a great many of us are living what appear to be substandard lives. Some of us know it and self-flaggelate, while others are blythely getting on with daily, completely unaware of dismal failures. Thank God science is here to remind us.
I talked to my dad about this on Friday, after having whipped myself up into a state of agitation about past, current and future failures.He laughed. My dad is a thoughtful, keenly intelligent man, but he's not a navel-gazer prone to bouts of diffidence. The answer seemed relatively straightforward. "Success is measured by your happiness and sense of fulfillment," he said.
But what do you mean by "fulfillment?"
"It just means doing the things you love as much as you possibly can, while doing the things you have to do to survive."
Oh.It did my heart good to hear it. It's a sign that as my dad prepares to shuffle off this mortal coil, he feels content with the life he's created. But beyond that, I take it to mean that there is hope for all the September-born marshmallow-eating semi-reformed slackers out there who shall remain nameless.
*I am 100% confident that at the age of four I would have been completely unable to withstand the lure of a plump, tantalizing marshmallow waved in front of my nose. I would have stuffed it in my mouf in about 4.5 seconds, because - hey! - free marshmallow. Which explains everything, really.
P.S. I think this guy has the right idea.
Quote and image of “Kitty Canutt” riding Winnemucca in 1919 via The Ugly Earring, one of my all-time favorite blogs.