Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's Really Important

I had lunch with a long-time acquaintance the other day.  I've known her for twenty years but I wouldn't really call us "friends." She has a trust fund, and throughout the conversation I heard all about the newest renovations to her house, their recent trip to the Amalfi Coast, the many organizational boards she's serving on, and how she had generously just paid for a cruise for her in-laws. What also came out however, was that she and her husband were considering a divorce, her son had flunked out of college, and her father's raging alcoholism had resulted in an accident and an arrest.

To quote J.R.R. Tolkien, "All that is gold does not glitter."

This encounter got me thinking about what people think is important.  People revere celebrities and those in the public eye because somehow we have been taught that if you are in the entertainment field, regularly appearing on a screen, you are somehow superior to the rest of us lowlifes. It is a common belief that the more letters a person has after their name, the better they are, regardless of how they may live their lives or treat others.  We put enormous amounts of value of our personal worth based on what others think of us, or more accurately, what we perceive others think of us. 

This acquaintance of mine made sure to tell me specific examples of her continuing material wealth and prosperity, so I'd be impressed and jealous, and ultimately feel inferior to her. Meanwhile, I felt none of these things.  What I ended up feeling was sorry for her, not only for what she is going through personally, but also that she felt the need to build herself up in my eyes by what she thought was so enviable and important. Her worth, literally and figuratively, is based on what society deems successful and impressive.

Do you know what I have found to be important? The little things. That sounds trite and cliche but it is soundly true.  My husband doing all of the dishes after I've gone to bed so I can wake up to a clean kitchen.  My son getting straight As and giving me a hug in front of all of his teenaged buddies at the baseball game. Staying up past midnight giggling and talking with my teenage daughter. And all four of us gathered on the couch, watching RiffTrax together, laughing until our stomachs hurt.

You can keep your millions of dollars and your vacation home in Aspen. You can keep your fame and fortune that leaves you miserable and alone off of the red carpet. You can keep the academic and industry accolades that keep you from living your true dream because this is what you are "supposed" to be doing. Instead I will take true love, respect and affection, real career fulfillment, and mental and physical health for all. And laughter. Lots of it.

That's what is important to me. Especially because in life, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks because anyone else isn't living my life.  And I refuse to let them. 

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