"It's The Little Things" And Other True Cliches
I have always been a weirdly ambitious person.
As a child of six, I used to tell my parents that I was going to be so successful one day that they’d need to name a new unit of money after me. Six-year-old me was a tiny capitalist dictator. While normal little girls wanted to be Cinderella or a doctor or something, I wanted to be Oprah Winfrey. I wanted my own television show, my own magazine, my own empire. I used to set an alarm on summer mornings so I could be up to watch Oprah every day, taking diligent mental notes on how to become the most powerful woman in the world.
So I’m kind of a total Slytherin.
As I grew up, the dreams obviously changed but were still always pretty grandiose. At age 24, my biggest life goal would be to write and produce my own sitcom. So you know, just your average Midwestern girl’s normal dreams.
I’ve been slowly but surely working toward those dreams for a long time now. I worked my ass off in school, took every writing-adjacent opportunity I could, and volunteered on live productions on the regular. I graduated college and got a job where I get paid actual money to write. I may not be Shonda Rhimes or Mindy Kaling yet, but the plan is moving along, okay?
But what happens to an aggressively ambitious person with big old dreams when that brain happens to be trapped in an arguably broken body?
When you have a chronic illness, it can really knock you on your ass without notice. It’s not something you can feasibly plan for. So when you’re trying to make plans for your life, it’s hard to do. You want to take a sick internship in New York that would open doors for your future or go travel across Asia for the experience of it, but you also know there’s a chance your disease could flare up out of the blue and ruin your well-laid plans.
My solution? Stop planning.
It’s an imperfect solution, I know. It would probably help me take over the world a la Oprah one day if I could do a bit more strategic career planning. But I deal with the hand I’ve been dealt, which sometimes means prioritizing getting through the day over getting through the next ten years and becoming a badass network mogul.
But you know what? Letting go of the plan has done wonders in making me a calmer, happier person. It may sound cheesy, but I’m learning every day how to value the little things over the big things. I know now that I don’t need millions of dollars or heaps of international praise to be happy or feel successful. What I actually need is good friends, a new book, and a colorful mug of some variety of fruity tea. And most days, that’s enough.
So while the cunning Slytherin in me cringes at the idea of “just enjoying the little things!” I’m learning that success can be defined in different ways based on your circumstances. Taking care of my mind and body can be a huge success if I let myself consider it one. Taking over the world one hit television show at a time? Definitely also success, but maybe a type of success I’m okay with working my way to more slowly.