The other day I had two dear friends over for a play date and lunch. I met them both when we all lived in Chicago; we were single, working, and playing flag football on the weekends. We all grew up in the Midwest and went to Big Ten universities. One worked for a large cable network, one a well-known marketing firm, and I was working for Andersen Consulting. We were the epitome of our generation of women, forging through choices presented to us of potential mates, potential careers and all that goes with it.
16 years later, all of us are married, all of us with kids…but…
…one is a stay at home mom who loves the suburbs. Her trip to the city marked the first for her 16 month old daughter.
…the other, also now a stay at home mom, lives in Palo Alto and finds herself in San Francisco often meeting her husband for dinner after work, or to meet up with friends.
…and then there’s me. I still live in the city (NYC now). I own my own business and I live in a two bedroom apartment. My kids ride the subway with us on a daily basis and think back yards are public parks for anyone to play in.
From an outsider’s perspective, we could be perceived as very different. We could be analyzed, even…how did three women with similar upbringings have such different outcomes with regards to career and family? Who’s happiest? Who took advantage of the opportunities presented to them and who fell prey to social and cultural pressures?
I see similarity more than difference. We were all brought up to follow our hearts and do what makes us happy. And that has lead us each to where we are now. And only by being true to ourselves and our needs could we so confidently be happy with our lives and still be dear friends. I know that my two friends think I’m crazy for doing what I do, but they are happy for me. And they know that I could never live the life they do, but I am 100% supportive of the choices they’ve made.
Because we made the choices that align with our values, not with what the world wants us to be, we have ended up all exactly where we should be: happy. So here’s to the best way – which is any way that’s value-based and makes you happy.