I was talking to my son this week, about opportunities. We also talked about Reggie Darling’s jaunt through Antiques Week, music, and this article about snow and Eskimos. But Opportunity stuck with me.
Defined here as Something You Are Offered Which Will Give You More Prizes Than Usual, For Less Work Than You Expect. A leg up.
I’ve passed on a few opportunities in my life. Some I’ve never forgotten. If so, so what? What use are these memories? Life is long, choices many, am I just an older lady looking for purchase on the history I traverse in a clatter of personal scree?
Well, that’s overly dramatic, but I do love the word scree. Caused by physical or chemical weathering indeed. I hold out hope that we’ll find a pattern. A lesson. Let us deconstruct, starting with the particular. What did I turn down and why?
A Publisher Paying Attention To My Future Book
In my senior year of college, a beloved roommate and her mother took me to lunch with a family friend on the board of the publishing company Farrar, Strauss, Giroux. Carried away by a Mardi Gras parade of young intellect, I went on and on about my theories of consciousness. The words binary, 1′s and 0′s, the motion between On and Off, all might have been mentioned. I explained I had a book in mind. He said to send it to him, when finished But. I never wrote it because I did not believe in my talent. Opportunity Assessed As Not Real Due To Imposter Syndrome.
Many Free Fancy Dinners In New York
After college, and after a slightly random year in London, I moved to Manhattan. 1979-1984 that was, go-go years if the world has ever seen them. Did I indulge? Hardly. I went dancing all of once. I dated rarely. Half a decade as a pretty young thing – a pretty young thing with money, at that - and I took absolutely no advantage. No dates with driven investment bankers, no photos from society balls, no notoriety to regret as I aged and faded. Silly, perhaps, but I do think back and wonder why I didn’t enjoy my powers. Opportunity Unrecognized Altogether Due To Fear Of Losing My Nascent Identity To Strong-Jawed Men And Crowds.
Wedding In Rajasthan, 1982
On my trip to India, I was invited to the wedding of a railway porter’s daughter, in Rajasthan. I said no. I had a schedule to keep, after all. Opportunity Declined Due To Phantom Plan Adherence.
Several Millions Of Dollars
When my daughter was very young, some friends of my sister started a company. They were wonderful, smart, alternative, focused guys with a plan. Why didn’t I come to work for them, they wondered? Ah, but I had a young child, and wasn’t comfortable with anything besides part-time work at that point. Opportunity Declined Due To Heart Not In The Game.
Somehow, ever since, I’ve taken the opportunities that present. Somehow or other I learned to say yes, for better or worse.
I turned great things down in my youth because:
- I didn’t believe in myself
- I didn’t know what was possible
- I invented phantom plans and goals to address issues 1 and 3
I turned down those millions, on the other hand, for good reason. The founders made something like $25M when they went public, approximately 10 years later. But the time I invested with my little ones built a foundation of parenting confidence that makes me happy to this day.
I return to the space time-intensive motherhood constructed in my heart, all the time.
You know, the confidence from those days extends even beyond parenting. Motherhood was the first time in my life I ever came up against my doubts, screwed my courage to the sticking point, improved at the task, and what’s more, believed in my improvement.
I always get mad when people say things like, “Follow your heart and all will be well.” There’s so much more to it. You have to know your heart, follow it, and pay attention to everything on the chosen path. But I could say, looking back, that if you choose resolutely not to follow your heart, especially out of ignorance and fear, all will not be well.
Sure, nobody is ever going to offer to pay attention to the book 21-year Lisa wanted to write, and 56-year old Lisa doesn’t have those neurons any more. Nobody is ever going to squire me to dinner as a trophy of young womanhood. I doubt I’ll be attending a wedding in Rajasthan any time soon, and 1982 is forever gone. Luckily life and fortune don’t give up on us without a fight.
The most important thing is to be prepared for opportunity. Because while we don’t control when she knocks, if you will accept my High WASP apologies for a facile metaphor, we do control how to answer the damn door.
Have a wonderful weekend.