If you were to ask your sweet 8-year-old self: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer would be authentic, genuine and from the heart. The magic is reconnecting to that childlike candor and abandonment — to your original aspirations before any perceived expectations diluted them.
When I was 8, my spitfire Cuban maternal abuelita would babysit the neighborhood kids after school. During snack time, she’d sit all 6 of us at my circular dining table and ask us questions. Granny would hush the rowdy gaggle of monkeys before delivering the query of the day. On this occasion, as she stood in the mellow yellow-hued kitchen with a cloth painting of a bullfighter on one wall, and Jesus with outstretched arms on the other, she inquired: “When you grow up and can be and do anything, what would make you happy?”
I now fully realize how introspective she was to word the question in the way that she did to a bunch of loud, cackling, runny-nosed, ADD-ravaged, Hialeah gang of peanuts. I remember my answer not being the most ladylike, simply because the only other girl in the group let me know the second I uttered it, yet my delivery was very matter-of-fact: “I want to travel the world and write for National Geographic…and I only want a boyfriend to have a baby with!” My course in life took me down several paths before coming full circle to my love for travel, adventure and the written word. I won’t comment on the boyfriend department, only to say that I treasure my independence and making new friends [insert wink].
“I want to travel the world and write for National Geographic…and I only want a boyfriend to have a baby with!”
On one of my most recent adventures to Amsterdam, I sat next to an attractive gentleman named Kevin. He was warm, friendly and a physician by trade. After several hours of trying our best to accommodate our languid and restless bodies in airplane seats (even business class gets uncomfortable after so many hours) he, learning what I did for a living, confided in me his childhood desire of wanting to be a writer. To his chagrin — and thanks to the fact that he came from a long linage of doctors — his fire & brimstone Baptist father pressured him to enter the medical field.
That got me thinking, how many of us have taken on a profession because of peer or family pressure? A paycheck? Or out of fear or necessity? Listen, I get it…sometimes it is about a paycheck to make ends meet. I’ve taken on those jobs — and I don’t pass judgment on anyone who has — but I now view those positions as a mere pause in life until you get back on course.
“How many of us have taken on a profession because of peer & family pressure? A paycheck? Or out of fear or necessity?”
In many cases, it might have been more about not claiming your unique abilities early on. Never too late, I say to that. Did you follow someone else’s dream? Have you looked for job opportunities society garners as the most prosperous? From all the years of being in this business, starting off as a model with the opportunity to globetrot, co-hosting a variety of television shows for the Hispanic market, and later settling into my life as a writer, the underlying recurring theme I’ve observed in individuals who found success and fulfillment is this: Each had the capacity single out what they most loved and were good at early on; they remained loyal to that endeavor, honed it and pursued it with wide-eye delight and passion.
In the process of wanting to be accepted by society, we easily fall into the pattern of people-pleasing while also abandoning our authentic self. We certainly wouldn’t want others to think of us as weird or odd…which would represent rejection from the tribe. Pursuing your vision, ignoring the naysayers and getting up after failed attempts takes more than persistence; it takes courage. It means you’re among an elite crew: Thomas Edison, The Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley and Jawed Karim…we could probably dedicate an entire book to this caliber of icons who have made it.
“In the process of wanting to be accepted by society, we easily fall into the pattern of people-pleasing while abandoning our authentic self.”
What’s more, one needs conviction to embrace uniqueness. Most of the times this means standing alone and vulnerable to the world. Think of Salvador Dalí, whose strict lawyer father expected him to follow in his footsteps and was told at the age of 5 that he was the reincarnation of his older brother who had died at the age of 3. This led him to believe he was responsible for dual destinies. The awkward Salvador remained steadfast to the vision he had for himself, and his devotion lead to some of history’s most masterful works.
As writer Anne Lamott puts it: “The real issue is how do we gently stop being who we aren’t?” To do this is to return to our purest self to find our true calling. In closing, the words of Antoine De Saint-Exupery come to mind: “Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” It’s time to once again embrace our childhood passions, our authenticity and our calling in life. Our happiness depends on it.