Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love) recently posted this photo of herself on facebook. What’s remarkable about this photo is that it is distinctly unremarkable. Yet this is her living her dream.
“This photo captures exactly what I did for three straight years. I sat in a chair, reading books about botany, evolution, abolition, women’s history, missionaries, Dutch 18th century commerce, and more…in order to fill my brain (and index cards) with enough information to write that novel [The Signature of All Things].
There is no situation in which I could possibly be happier than this — submerged in the vocation that I love, vanishing for hours a day into my work.
Un-showered, greasy hair, eyes tired, totally falling down the rabbit hole of research…this is me, living my dream.”
In her facebook post she reveals she has turned away from many shiny and appealing paths in life…”because it was someone else’s dream.”
After the success of Eat Pray Love she turned down an offer to host her own TV show… “because it was someone else’s dream.”
She avoided hiring a team of personal assistants and consultants to help her “grow her brand”… “because it was someone else’s dream.”
It’s why she never had children.
Why she never took a good steady job teaching writing at a nice college.
Why she didn’t remain in Bali or Rome.
And why she turns down 99% of the invitations she receives to fancy parties and gatherings.
Someone else’s dream.
She even sold her “big beautiful house with its fabulous gardens and lovely library”… because one day she looked around at her gorgeous home and realised she was living someone else’s version of a wonderful life; not her own.
This is a woman who remains steadfastly true to what is right for her, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
It’s so easy to be swayed by what we’re told we should want – money, status, job titles.
It’s so easy to get caught up in striving for approval, recognition and belonging.
For a long, long time I chased after all these things and the only thing it brought me was a permanent state of exhaustion! (If you’re wondering why it’s been a bit quiet on the blog front lately, now you know.)
After years spent striving to be remarkable, it has finally dawned on me in the last few weeks that I am enough as I am. And what I actually want and need most is a nice, simple, unremarkable life.
I can’t tell you what a relief this is!
Thank you to Elizabeth for reminding us that when it comes to success, the only definition to go by is your own. Not your family’s or your friend’s or society’s but your own heart-felt definition. Whatever weird and wonderful or unremarkable shape that takes.