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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Maybe I'm the last one to figure this out...

but the measure of success is freedom. Freedom, for me, equals happiness.

This after a conversation with my mother who says I am doing a good job of educating the girls, BUT, I am limiting their possibilities.

When she mentioned running into my former sister-in-law's co-conspiratorial best friend who works at the same grocery chain as my ex-SIL did, I casually mentioned how sad it is to aspire to a career of nothing higher than checkout girl at Publix. Always the worker bee. And with everything computerized, never even having to use your brain. I must confess though, that for a brief period in the midst of a busy theater season, where we were promoting six shows each in six cities during a span of about four months, I sometimes fantasized about it -- either that, or handing cheeseburgers out a window -- but, I digress. My mother countered that management positions at the local grocery chain offer high wages, good benefit packages and retirement benefits. Yes, I know, but what a dreary life living from paycheck to paycheck, waiting for your measly two week annual vacation, always unsatisfied and wanting more. She continued to argue that it is not a bad life, and while I agree in one sense that it is not a bad life, no one dreams of being the checkout girl when they grow up.

Well then, she insisted, your girls had better go to college. Not necessarily. I tried to explain that more money does not equal happiness; following your heart does. I tried to explain the concept of the pyramid: from the janitor on up to a corporate executive, you are still either the base or, at best, the upper middle of the pyramid; there are very few people at the top and you can typically only rise so high. And for what? More money and maybe six weeks off every year? No, thanks.

When you are self-employed, the sky's the limit. This is what we want for our girls. If they are so inclined, they can take over the construction business, or broker real estate deals, or run a resort in the jungle, or be a chef (or a chef in a resort in the jungle) or a doctor, or a farmer, or anything they want. The important thing is to be their own boss, be the top of the pyramid, even if it's only a really small one. If learning specific professional skills in college helps, fine. If studying philosophy or art or great books in college is what they desire, fine. If they find themselves in a position where college is unnecessary, that's fine too.

When they can support themselves in a way that pleases them, I consider that success.

This is difficult for a retired teacher married to a retired mailman to understand, but it seems to me I'm broadening their possibilities, not limiting them.

Here's to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...

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