One of my favorite movies comes to mind, Gone With The Wind, (I assure you, I am not as old as I sound). The lines that stuck with me since the first time I heard it came from the privaledged Scarlett O’Hara. Set during the American Civil War she comes back to find her childhood family home burned, and deserted. She learns her mother has died of typhoid and her dad starts to lose it due to the stress. They have lost everything and everything seems to fall on her shoulders, including taking care of what they have left as a home and even tending the fields. She has never experienced such hardship, but being the beautiful, bull-headed manipulative brunette she’s always been, she makes a declaration while on her knees in the middle of her wreckage saying,
“As God is my witness, as God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”
I absolutely love that line and although it was a fictional story, I do believe in the power of declarations. There are several instances in which the ‘be careful what you ask for and say’ warning has proven to be sound advice that should be heeded.
When you say it like you mean it and you declare it, the things you feel, want and desire, good or bad, you’re essentially putting out there, sort of like an invitation and the laws of attraction finds ways to manifest them. The only problem is, there is no guarantee it will be delivered in the manner or time in which you hope for it so you had better get as specific as you can. That is what I liked most about Ms. Scarlett’s declaration, the specificity. Lying and killing made the cut which ultimately tells you that her desire is stronger than her sense of morality for honesty, trustworthiness, or even murder. She wanted it all back, at all costs.
Perhaps once having something and losing it gives you all the more incentive you need to go completely out your way to get it back. After all, she did live a cushy, privaledged life. Now, facing hardship, she was experiencing a whole new level of low that she was willing to do anything to get out of. Her previous life was a great motivator. For those of us however, who has never experienced the privaledge wealth can afford, it can be a little difficult to conjure up that kind of passion and unwavering conviction.
Somewhere deep down inside, she believed she deserved everything she had and I think underneath it all, that’s exactly what you need to get the kind of hootspa you need to weather the storm. So that leads me to question, what am I wiling to do to achieve my version of “success”? Where do I draw the line in my own pursuit of happiness? Do I have a line?
TO KILL OR NOT TO KILL?
I can tell you for sure that murder won’t make the list as I’m sure most of us would certainly agree with. I’m sure most people would say the same thing, but self preservation can be a bitch of a motivation. Under the right circumstances, anyone can be a murderer. I’ve suffered a loss through murder and I think it’s a gruesome end to something so fragile as life and I can’t help but think crossing a line like that would change me in such a way, I wouldn’t recognize myself. Yes, some change is good, it is a necessity for growth, but not if it affects my character in a negative way. I just don’t see how you can be a happy murderer, unless of course you’re a sadistic psychopath.
LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE
I can honestly say however, that lying wouldn’t be so difficult for me, and I’m not talking little white lies. We all give little white lies now and then and some of us do it for a living. Lying is sort of part of the fabric of being a human being and I don’t care if you’re the Pope, you’ll do it as often as you feel you need to. Whether you’re doing it to protect someone, make yourself feel better or get what you want, it’s still a lie and I’m not adverse to it. I know admitting such a thing makes me seem like an untrustworthy person, but I don’t trust those who don’t admit to lying. Lying about lying makes me super uncomfortable.
CHEATER, CHEATER, PUMPKIN EATER
Additionally, when I think about it, I probably wouldn’t “deliberately” steal, but I would probably cheat. I can recall an episode of the show Food Truck Race where this team of Koren college kids pretty much won almost every challenge. The one time they feared that they may not make the next round, they decided to cheat by adding their own money to the till to pad their earnings. The host Tyler Florence revealed that Korilla had cheated by adding over $2000 of their own money into their cash drawer that wasn’t backed up with the sales receipts. They were asked to leave the competition as a result. The irony is if they hadn’t added that money, they would not have placed last and would still be in the game.
I could still see the disgust on Tyler’s face as he watched them walk away in shame to their cars. The lesson I got from that situation was not that cheaters never win…because that isn’t true, but that the majority of us will cheat if necessary when it’s something we really, truly want. So I look at cheating as the measure taken when desire to acquire something is greater than societies code of ethics as it pertains to “the right thing to do.” I haven’t had much practice in the art of cheating however. I can recall flirting with a guy to do all of my graphic design projects while in school. I maybe heavily flirted with another guy will dating my high school boyfriend and I think I walked out of the store knowing I got more change than I was suppose to get…does any of that constitute as cheating? I’m not even sure.
This post is starting to make me sound like a bit of an underhanded, dishonest, harlette with no scruples, but I think I have one single quality that makes up for it, at least if I’m on your side. I am loyal to a fault. I never forget the things people have done for me, no matter how small the favor or the task. I think there has got to be a handful of people that you can always count on and you can count on them never to screw you just to get ahead. I don’t call just anyone a friend so if you are my friend, the last thing I could ever do is screw you to get ahead. I’d rather find another way. Not only would I hate the idea of not being able to look you in the eye, I would hate to be the target on your wall that motivates you to either take me down or show me just how small and insignificant my life is compared to yours.
So, no, I won’t do anything for success and happiness, but I am willing to find my way around everything to achieve happiness and success. I don’t think evil deeds are necessary to get there and in fact, the more honest the journey there, the sweeter the reward will be. I have a sweet tooth so I want that reward to be as sweet as it could possibly be. So…I have no murders scheduled for the foreseeable future.
I often wonder, at what age does being a big dreamer suddenly make you start looking foolish? I’m talking about the kinds of dreams that seem foolish only because we have absolutely no idea how difficult or improbable it might be to actually achieve.
At five years old, those kinds of dreams are applauded, teachers encourage it, parents find it cute. Want to be President of the united states? Why not! Most of them don’t know what they’re doing anyway! Maybe you’ll figure it out! Want to be the first man to walk on Mars? It’ll happen one day, you can be first! Being a prima ballerina, Hollywood actor or a famous singer, all possible; if you can dream it you can do it!
The world is your oyster…
Live out loud…
Of course, achieving the perverbial dream, whatever it may be, isn’t always such an easy feat for everyone. Life doesn’t necessarily deal us all a fair hand, does it? For many of us, achieving our dreams, even if not impossible, can be highly improbable, if only because we don’t have the support, foundation or pedigree to make it an immediate possibility. That’s the “reality”. Some of us are dealt winning hands from the start, some of us start out with good enough and there are some of us who are dealt a handful of crap. Despite this reality, time and time again, we see that drive, dedication and determination can act as the great equalizer. The only thing that is truly standing between you and that dream is a little dose of audicity.
The fact remains that we are allowed a little bit more slack when it comes to aspiring for what I consider, true happiness while we reside in the space of blissful childlike ignorance. I wonder, at what age does it stop being cute to be a dreamer? What invisible threshold do we cross during the course of our lives that suddenly requires us to start being ‘realistic’ about our desires?
I have my theories on this incredibly sad phenomenon. I believe it happens during those middle school years where you’re no longer quite a baby, but still not quite a full blown teenager. That’s the period in which your natural abilities and strengths start developing. If your education is left at the mercy of the public school system, or even at some private institutions, whether you had a chance at making something of yourself depended and still depends on your teacher; not necessarily based on their teaching effectiveness, but on whether or not you liked them. See, we learn best from the teachers we actually like.
Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors alike hold a lot of influence. Some of us grew up seeing more of our teachers than we saw our own parents, which gave them some power over the trajectory of our lives. I had a natural talent for writing. I can remember my 6th grade English teacher promenading me down the hall to the class next door so I could read the scary story I wrote. Then I was asked (forced really) to read it in front of a stadium full of bored kids as one of the scary story contest winners. Then there was my Advanced Placement 12th grade English teacher who entered me into a writing contest without my knowledge. She thought my writing was that good.
My mother tells me, I wrote so much as a child, that I wrote on the walls and in books. She bought me a second hand type writer to focus my energies there. I wrote short stories, poetry, wrote awesome research papers and book reports, yet no one, not one teacher who loved my writing ability and not even my mother ever considered suggesting that I become a writer. In all fairness I’m not sure how many teachers would suggest someone become a writer. They may as well suggest I become an artist…or president!! It’s lofty, especially for a black girl living in the ghetto, and success happens for only a lucky few.
I ended up going into fashion instead (yah, that was more realistic). I just wanted to do something creative with my life. I was great at drawing and I didn’t have any dreams of being the next Chanel, but I certainly wanted to something I loved. I worked as an assistant designer right out of school designing maternity wear and then swimwear. I wanted to open a boutique and carry my own designs. That would have made me happy. My mother was supportive. She’d help me put together a couple of fashion shows and I sold a couple of pieces, like a real fashion designer!
After that, for six years I got paid to dress mannequins in fashionable, expensive clothing as a Visual Merchandiser for department stores. I got to paint murals and set up displays that literally affected your buying habits. I had great bosses, mostly, and with the characters I worked with, there was never a dull day (except when there was nothing to do). It was awesome. By choice, I have never held another “job” since. I’ll explain why.
When I left my job as a Visual Merchandiser, it was to take over his parent’s family business, an Assisted Living Facility, which I absolutely hated. We both hated it. It was not a business we would have built for ourselves and the daily problems that sprung up kept our stress level on high. We decided to sell it because it was simply too taxing. We couldn’t see ourselves holding on to it despite the financial security it gave us. A few good things came out of that experience, however. You can always learn something even from the worst experiences and we learned three important things that changed our lives forever. One, that we wanted to create a business we love, two, self-employment is worst than employment and three, the road to financial “freedom” will never be achieved if you don’t take the risk to go for it despite the possibility of failure.
Our parents thought we were crazy, and maybe we are. The problem is, my husband and I are dreamers. After floating around listlessly for five years from major to major in college, my husband suddenly decided he wanted to pursue his life long dream and become a lawyer. He was accused of being lazy, suggesting that he was taking this route because he didn’t want to work and was advised to go get a job. It was probably a lack of faith and fear of his abilities to actually do it, but he ignored the negative counsel. He knew it was now or never for him. Three years from making his decision to pursue it, he graduated with a law degree.
We wanted more, and not a situation where we were simply creating jobs for ourselves. Today we have a dream, and people think we’re crazy for it. Good enough, simply isn’t good enough. We’ve decided we want to live extraordinary lives and for us that means living on our time, doing what we want, when we want to do it. I want to write for a living and ultimately, he wants to be an investor and that is exactly what we’re gonna’ do!
We know it’s possible because we’ve already achieved dreams we’ve previously set for ourselves. It was lofty for me to major in Fashion Design, but I spent my entire career making a living in Fashion, some of the best years of my life. My husband went from high school drop out to lawyer and opened his own law firm. He hated the clients, but loved the work. We built ourselves a comfortable little nest, bought some toys, owned some big things and went to a few little places. So why weren’t we satisfied with that life? If it was so great, why keep seeking for more…why want more? The only answer I have for that is, because there is more to life, and it makes no sense settling for what you have because you’re afraid to go for everything you want.
We did what we loved, but we weren’t free. We worried about money and played keeping up with the Joneses…yet the Joneses had a sucky life; married to their jobs and filling their lives with stuff to justify it, and we were a part of that herd. We looked at our lives and felt that was something was missing. Then, through self-introspection, we finally asked ourselves, ‘what do I really want out of life’, and the answer was, to be able to say we lived a life we chose for ourselves, and we lived it extraordinarily.
The difficulty with such a decision is that living extraordinarily requires doing extraordinary things. That means making decisions that may not put us in the most flattering light for the moment. Coming from where we’re coming from, yeah, it is a dream. Most of our friends and families believe that kind of life is reserved only for the lucky, the born rich and lottery winners. Now, when people say we’re dreamers, they say it like its a bad thing. They tell us, we have to be realistic, that our dreams are too big and too lofty. They say, we need to get serious, if only because we don’t seem to be doing as well as our peers. And that’s just the problem they don’t seem to understand. We’re not playing by the same rules as our peers, let alone are we playing the same game.
Whether or not you like him, Obama is a two term President today because he wasn’t realistic in the first place. Worst yet, he had the audacity to believe it was even a possibility. I’ve discovered something on this quest for dream fulfillment and happiness. Those who stop dreaming, stop living. The further you move away from those dreams, the more you live in reality and I’m sorry to say folks, reality sucks. I took the red pill and I’m not going back!
The road is hard, and it is bumpy, and scary, but it is absolutely liberating. Do you know what pursuing your dreams looks like? It’s not being able to get your hair or nails done professionally. It’s not being to able eat at nice restaurants or go on that trip to the Dominican Republic with the rest of your friends. There are some days things are so difficult, you contemplate quitting, but as they say, if you haven’t felt like quitting, you aren’t dreaming big enough. The pay off though, is that tomorrow morning, I will wake up at 10:30am, most likely with my 3 and 1 year old breathing in my face. I will eat breakfast, watch two episodes of Mickey Mouse club house, chat it up with the hubby, talk about our goals, accomplish some of them, have reading and math time with the kids, play outside until nap time, and maybe take one myself. Then I’ll wake up, catch up on some projects, work on some of my novels and chat it up for a few hours with the hubby again. Then we’ll do some more work, eat dinner, get the kids ready for bed and finish up with some kind of awesome television show. (Any Fringe fans in the house?!). Bottom line is, I own my time, therefore I own my life and everything that happens within it. The money is just a result and will follow eventually.
This is my life in the pursuit of my dreams. Sacrifices have to be made, like living wayyyyyyyyy below our means, but if it feels as freeing as it does now, I can only imagine what it will feel like when we actually get there. We’re no different than most people. We just believe we deserve more simply because we want it and will do whatever it takes…save for a few things. (Maybe I’ll post what those things are in the following post.) As far as I know, we’ve only got One Life to Live, and we’ve got to live the Days of Our Lives , following the Guiding Light of our dreams so that All My Children can get the best of what the world has to offer for Generations to come. Living realistically is a living a life fueled by fear. The ‘Normals’ can have it. Audacity is freedom.