Thursday, July 8, 2010

Success

This week, my new book group discussed Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” In my opinion, the book’s basic argument – an individual’s likelihood to succeed isn’t based on IQ alone, but also opportunity, culture, and putting in enough hours of work – isn’t groundbreaking. But we had a very interesting discussion about how success is defined. In the way Gladwell sets up his book, he defines successful individuals as people in high power positions, such as doctors, lawyers, CEOs, professors, Silicon Valley magnates, etc. He then laments the fates of intelligent individuals that aren’t achieving their potential by becoming one of these things. Now don’t get me wrong, I get as depressed as the next person knowing that people are denied opportunities because life isn’t fair and people are born in different circumstances. But I think the element that is missing in his discussion is that not all intelligent individuals want to be doctors, lawyers, CEOs, etc, and that just because they working in a “lackluster” field doesn’t mean they aren’t succeeding in living the life that they want to live. I know plenty of brilliant individuals that are working in fields that allow them more time with their families or hobbies, leaving the work force or working part time to raise children, or following some less prestigious career path that they feel passionate about. I also know plenty of successful lawyers and businesspeople that don’t particularly love their life. So our group discussed how we would define success in our own lives.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. For me, I think living a successful life means that my basic needs are adequately provided for, and that I have enough leisure time to pursue activities that make me feel fulfilled. For me, my career is not the area that my worth comes from, or where I find the greatest fulfillment. It is something I enjoy doing that allows me to live the kind of life I want to live. I find the greatest fulfillment from spending time with my family and developing my mind (learning, improving my talents, etc). Success means living a fulfilling life, and no profession would be able to completely fill that need for me. I feel extremely lucky that at this stage in my life, I feel completely successful, not because I’m the world’s best stay at home mom (yeah, I still feel incompetent most of the time), but because I feel like a complete person. I have time for my family and time for myself, and I feel like I’m growing and developing as a person.

So how do you define success? Do you feel that you are on the path to achieving success in your life?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hooray for Modern Medicine

I thought flu season happened in the winter. I guess not. Emily has literally spent more time sick over the past two months than healthy. Flu, strep, hives, colds, ear infections, ridiculously high fevers ... you get the picture. I'm going to be honest: it is getting really old. That's a big part of the reason I haven't been blogging much. You don't want to hear me whine about it.

But I've been thinking a lot about how grateful I am for modern medicine. Because despite all the craziness, I've never once during these two months worried that my daughter wouldn't survive it. As I've read about colonial or frontier life, the best you could do in some of the circumstances Emily was in was give her fluids and hope the fever breaks. Maybe it would, maybe it wouldn't. The doctor might suggest letting some blood or something. I know it is still this way in many parts of the world. Instead, with all these illnesses I've had antibiotics, pain killers, prompt care facilities, throat cultures, air conditioning, and antihistamines available. What is a big annoyance/robber-of-sleep for Rob and me would have been much more serious 200 years ago.

I think about the strength of character it took for parents back in the day to love their children when child mortality was so high. I'm the kind of person that doesn't like to have my heart broken, and builds up big walls to prevent myself from having that happen. I wonder if I'd have the strength to love Emily the way I do if the odds of her surviving were so poor. I could easily see myself keeping my distance to keep myself from getting crushed. I know a lot of women did. I'm not really sure where I'm going with this, but recently I've been very grateful for the emotional freedom that having access to medical care gives me. I find more fulfillment in family life. I can allow myself to dream about my children's future. My attitude about pregnancy is completely different. I recognize what a blessing it is.