“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.” ― Bill Cosby
This morning I found this quote and it resonated with me. Perhaps it’s because I grew up being a people-pleaser. I lived my young life trying to fit in the mold my parents set for me, and after I married very young, I tried to be what my husband wanted. In both cases, I was miserable. Big surprise.
It wasn’t until the death of my closest friend, did I start to figure out what was wrong with me. I had to face the truth. I had let others live my life.
Carolyn’s death was a wake-up call for me. It was high time I started to live MY life and do what I wanted to do and stop trying to be what other people wanted me to be. And that took a pile of courage.
The first thing I did was enroll in college. At age 35 I was old enough to be labeled a “non-traditional” student, but I had always wanted to know if I could have cut it on campus. My four years of striving for my diploma did wonderful things for me. It was one of the best times in my life. I rediscovered the REAL Barbara! I set a goal and accomplished it. In fact, I graduated in four years with eight semesters on the Dean’s List, awards for my writing, and had a grade-point high enough to wear a Magna Cum Laude cord around my neck as I accepted me diploma from the Chancellor.
But my voyage of discovery shook up everyone around me. It wasn’t pretty for them. They were living with a person they didn’t know because I had never showed them those qualities. My own mother told me going to college was “the stupidest thing you have ever done.” Then there were old friends who laughed when I cried over getting a C on a paper I had written for my 101 English class. And of course, a husband who put every obstacle in front of me to discourage my quest.
But when I was on campus, I was just Barbara again. I remembered that girl from a long time ago and it was an amazing getting acquainted again. My new cluster of young friends rallied around me; counseled me on the ways of academia and quirks of professors, took me bowling with them at the lanes on campus and just thought I was cool. It was so liberating to just be me again . . . until I went home and faced a husband who didn’t like the change. In fact, after graduation he said, “I’m glad that nonsense is over so now things can get back to normal.”
Nope. Things would never go back there again. So, we divorced and for the first time at age 40 I was on my own. Writing up a storm of journals that expressed my hurt and frustration that the people who said they loved me, really didn’t. They didn’t want ME–they wanted THEIR version of ME.
So, I started surrounding myself with people who did like me for me. To this day, they are some of my dearest friends. They have supported me in my career changes, walked with me through Ken’s illnesses, and have even bought my books. Some of them like the stories, others don’t think I am that great. But, it’s okay. I’ll keep on writing, keep on getting my books published and know that everyone has different tastes. I will never change my recipe because someone else thinks I should. That’s not to say that I’m not open to knew ideas. I will look at my recipe for success and perhaps add a little spice–because I want to.