I am enough from Erin Oltmanns

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. 


  • Rachael
    Posted at 20:07h, 25 January Reply

    I can barely get past how much I love the photo up top! 😀 Going back to read the rest!

  • Roxanne
    Posted at 22:55h, 25 January Reply

    So true, there is life beyond needing to be needed. I, too, love the rainbow heart pic.

  • fer
    Posted at 06:32h, 29 January Reply

    Wholehearted happiness. Yeah, that is enough. ♥ <——————that's all! 🙂

  • Micah
    Posted at 01:47h, 31 January Reply

    This post just said everything I've been thinking! Thank you for writing it so beautifully! I recently quit my job to become a full-time artist, focusing on my business and working from home. It was a big transition and definitely not the normal way of doing things. I asked myself some of those same hard questions and decided I, too, needed to pursue happiness in life and not follow the "standard way of life." Here's to filling your life with joy and "wholehearted happiness!" -Micah

  • denise
    Posted at 20:59h, 03 February Reply

    So well put. And the idea of individualized success? Brilliant. Thank you.

  • Donna
    Posted at 18:07h, 05 February Reply

    thank you for this! i so believe that you do have to keep a roof over your head and help finance yourself so you can have a lifestyle to being balanced and happy, we must enjoy our jobs and creative inspirational self whatever that is for each of us.

    I am enough and this collaborative is needed.

  • kalanicut
    Posted at 02:33h, 02 March Reply

    I was having thoughts quite related to this just this morning. It's comforting to have "sisters" to stand by who understand what I feel. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I take it to heart and let it strengthen my own resolves, dreams and deeds.

  • Macrina
    Posted at 02:03h, 30 March Reply

    Dear Erin,

    Not sure I would agree that happiness is an end to be sought, but I can completely and utterly understand your struggle with what society tells us is 'success'. Since I was young it was pressed that my measure of success is based on income, title and material gain. This never sat well inside me, but despite my own separate values, I still struggle against understanding what I "ought" to seek out and what my heart's desire is – what constitutes fulfilment and what is a waste of my life energies.

    It is wonderful, though, that you have not only been able to identify a discrepency between acts and life and are seeking to resolve it. I am likewise reaching that point but am yet too fearful to take action. Grace be with you!

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