My sister, Poppy and I were just recording our podcast and she mentioned something fascinating that really, really hit home for me. I think that you might relate.
We were talking about the things we used to love when we were younger. I have long held that the things that made us sparkle when we were younger are very often parts of who we were meant to be, in their purest, most uncut form.
For Poppy, this thing was travel. I can still picture her sitting on the floor in the Florida Room (that is a screened-in porch in Northeastern Ohio, for the uninitiated) with the Sunday Plain Dealer Newspaper Travel section, surrounded by turquoise file folders, writing destination names on the labels.
She would write and get free destination guide from the tourism offices of cities around the world, populating her file folders with these documents. She would pour over them.
I could have sworn, when we were younger, that Poppy would have become a travel agent.
Life stepped in, though, and Poppy ended up not travelling as much as she would have dreamed to when she was younger. Years passed.
This was what she said that got me thinking: she said that she used to get irrationally angry when people around her would talk about travelling. A raging kind of jealousy.
Remember in this article I wrote about how defensiveness is a sign of a deeper longing, some dream or desire that has gone unfulfilled? Poppy’s example illustrated my theory perfectly.
It took years. It took meeting the right person to get her travelling. It took a change in jobs. But eventually, Poppy started travelling the way she would have dreamed to travel.
And now, when people talk about travelling, she doesn’t get angry anymore. This is proof that she is making progress towards her Ideal Life.
What I thought I wanted
Before I had babies, before I had my mid-life crisis, before I went to therapy for some of my deep insecurity and self-loathing issues, I was struggled with the painful realization that I would never be a star. From the time I was young, I believed that I would be a star. I should be a star. A star on Broadway. A one-woman show in Vegas.
What I also knew about myself, was that I was so terrifyingly afraid of rejection, that I had never put myself out there in a way that would have gotten me even remotely close to my dreams. Add in a few humiliations when I made some half-hearted attempts and I found myself satisfied to grumble.
As I began to deal with my self-loathing and self-sabotage issues, I was able to come to grips with the fact that I would never be a star. I went through a grieving period. And from then on, I began to take greater pleasure in the opportunities I had to perform where I was. A small regional orchestra, where I could be a big fish in a little pond. At our church. Even with the chorus of Symphony Orchestra on a national stage was a place that began to feel right, without expecting or hoping to be “discovered.”
I had found my place.
When I first heard rumors of Flora, it was from her sister. This was years ago now, long before I did all that heavy-lifting I wrote about above. I had heard echoes and rumors of her existence through her older sister, with whom I worked. How talented a musician Flora was. It was about how amazing an actress Flora was. I remember her older sister showing me some videos of Flora on stage and feeling irrationally angry and jealous of this young woman I had never even met before.
Eventually, I met Flora. Now, Flora and I float in the same circles. Flora does have a lovely voice. Flora is adorable, kind, humble. She is twenty-six years old.
A few weeks ago, at a dinner party with some of our singing friends, Flora announced that she was going to be participating in an audition for a school in Paris that trains people to go on to careers in musical theater.
My heart stopped. For a split-second, that raging jealousy crept up. Once I had beaten back that jealousy, I suddenly wanted nothing, more than anything else in the world, than for Flora to do this. We started talking about her audition piece. I asked if she would sing it for me…I volunteered to watch her practice. She did, eventually send me a video, and it was great. I gave a few helpful hints, which she received with a humility that astonished me.
And then came the day of the audition. I was thinking about her, and oddly, was noticing that the jealousy that I would have expected to be there was not. I wanted this for her. That was all. It was not about me. This was about her.
Off to the races
Flora was accepted to the program. Flora is going to be going to Paris to study musical theater. She was worried that she was “too old” and I had to laugh. Admittedly, maybe twenty-six is a late start. But she is not too old.
I am just so (although I have nothing to do with it) proud of Flora. I am proud that she is following her bliss. I am in such admiration of the attitude she is taking into it.
Proof of Progress
Eight years ago, this same situation would have arisen and I would have be stewing in my jealousy.
Today, I understand the situation differently: today, I am making progress towards my own Ideal Life, and my Ideal Life is something I have taken significant time and energy to define. Based on my circumstances, my talents, my passions, I have a vision for what I want for my life and I know what my priorities are.
One of those priorities is to see thousands (I say thousands, but if I were honest, I want it to be millions) of other women define their Ideal Lives and start pursuing them.
Being intimately acquainted with what my Ideal Life looks like means that I am able to separate out my feelings of envy about the opportunities my younger friend has, and what it is that I actually want for myself and my life. I am able to be genuinely, confidently ecstatic for her, and not just because she is doing something that I might have wanted to do.
I am thrilled for her because she is making progress towards her Ideal Life.