25 Jan I am enough from Erin Oltmanns
Five years ago I was on the fast-track.
Good job. Nice paycheck. Swanky office. Smartphone full of beeps and buzzes letting me know that people neededme, asap.
I was miserable.
I would drive to work and wonder why this all wasn’t more fulfilling. I was ambitious and wasn’t the mark of being successful having a demanding job, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that came with it?
Aren’t we all supposed to want a big house, full of fancy-pants stuff? Aren’t we all supposed to want the latest and greatest fashion item/gadget/vacation hot-spot condo? Doesn’t everyone want to fork over a business card that sports an impressive title and prestigious employer?
What if what I wanted didn’t fit into those social norms? What if what would really make me happy was something else all together? Who was I then?
Who was I if I wasn’t the person with the fancy business card?
Who was I if I wasn’t climbing that ladder?
Who was I if I wasn’t the person who had followed The American Dream Roadmap?
These were the questions I wrestled with.
Then one morning the answer whacked me in the head. I remember what I was doing so vividly. I remember the pants I was wearing (charcoal grey pinstripe), I remember what I was doing (letting the dogs out for the day), hell, I even remember what step on my staircase I was standing on. Suddenly I realized that it was okay to want a happy life, good marriage and some kids. It was okay if my priority was being happy, in both my professional and personal life even if it meant passing up the conventional path to get there.
It’s a hard thing, in our culture, to carve out what ambition and success mean for us as individuals. As important as balance and happiness are to a soul, at the end of the day, you’ve got to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly.
So the trick for me, for the last five years, has been to take the long, hard looks and ask what I need to feel successful as a person. I need to work and contribute to my family’s finances. I need that work to be creative and meaningful. I need the people I work with to inspire me and I need to feel like those people, in turn, are happy to have me on their team. I also need to be able to do the things that make me feel like I’m doing a good job being a wife, mother, daughter and friend.
What I’ve learned is that what it means to be ambitious is different for everyone. There is no one way to feel like a success and the luckiest people are the ones that can identify what it is that will truly make them happy and go for it wholeheartedly.
Wholehearted happiness. Yeah, that is enough. And I was enough for wanting it for myself and my family.
About Erin Oltmanns
Erin Oltmanns is the Managing Editor of TodaysMama.com and is part of the team that organizes Evo Conference. Few things in life bring her as much pleasure as sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee while the kiddo chases her ill-mannered dogs. In March she’ll welcome a baby boy and then this whole work-during-naptime thing will get really interesting.