There’s a woman I know in the publishing industry who I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. She and I met years ago when she was a junior editor and I had just been promoted to full editor. We worked for different publishing houses that had a friendly rivalry, and we knew a lot of people in common. It was only natural that we’d eventually cross paths and have lunch, which is basically how publishing people communicate.
At our lunch, the woman told me that publishing was cool, but that she was really interested in branching out. Ya know, radio, tv, lecturing, hosting and writing her own stuff. I nodded supportively, took a bite of my salad, and thought, “Wow, that’s ambitious.” I don’t remember what I actually said. Probably something like, “Cool!” But to me, she sounded completely deluded.
I had just met this woman. She seemed smart and likable. But I wasn’t used to hearing this kind of big ambition expressed to me so blatantly. At least not without a lingering tone of wistfulness.
But she was dead-serious. In her twenties, educated, in New York, and at the beginning of her career, this woman saw no reason why she couldn’t have what she wanted.
Fast forward only three years, and you know what this chick is doing? She’s doing radio and tv. She’s lecturing and hosting events. And yes, she’s writing for a prominent magazine and has a book contract with a major publisher. Her Facebook page, which I have scoped more this week than I care to admit, has pictures of her with groovy people at fancy soirees (many of which I was invited to and didn’t attend; what is wrong with me?). She is doing everything she wanted to do. And she’s doing it well and with impeccable style!
For someone like me who is embarrassed to talk about herself, promote herself, and generally bring attention to herself in any way, telling someone I just met that I want to be a media big-shot is unthinkable. My approach has always been, I’ll work hard, the right people will notice, and opportunities will sprout from that. I almost certainly got this from my mother who, bless her heart, had her very first ever-in-life birthday party at age 50 because she thought it was unseemly to throw one for herself. “That just seems conceited and tacky, Rakia.” *
Now, I don’t endorse this philosophy. I’ve thrown myself birthday parties and I have a website for my freelancing self. But the idea of waiting to be noticed (or in Mom’s case, appreciated) instead of shouting, “Hey world, I’m here and this is what I’m after!” has stuck with me. I’m not the shouting-look-at-me kind. The woman at the top of this post — who got what she wanted — is.
What does that mean?
It could mean Rakia needs to go sit down somewhere, realize she’s just feeling a little envious, and remember that her life is just fine. (Which it is…I guess.) Or it could mean Rakia needs to use this envy to jumpstart her own battery and make some loud declarations of her own.**
Truth is, after I mull all of this over some more, I’ll probably do something in between. But this whole thing has me wondering, when do you know that the grass really is greener on the other side? And when do you just need to go sit down somewhere, give someone their props, and remember how good your own life really is? Where’s that blurry line begin and end?
*My siblings and I finally threw her one.
** Yes, I’m aware I switched to third person here. The mere thought of making myself more of the shouting type causes me to slink away from myself just a smidge.