Thursday, May 9, 2013

Money’s overrated; ducks are where it’s at: What's your definition of success?


Somehow, I have no photos of the ducks, but
our neighbourhood deer also make me happy.
The night my daughter was born, I sat in the hospital bed holding her, crying because she was crying and because I’d run out of ideas on how to soothe her. (And, lets face it, because the exhaustion and hormonal insanity of childbirth didn’t exactly enhance my zen.) The two of us were all alone - Foothills Hospital in Calgary does not allow overnight visitors in the maternity ward – and, looking at her tiny blue eyes, I realised that we were going to be moving back to the Maritimes.

My husband and I had been talking obliquely about whether Calgary was where we wanted to raise our daughter, but not because Calgary’s a bad place. It was, however, a place where we didn’t have any family.

And I needed help.

The kind of help friends, no matter how much they love you, can’t provide… but a grandmother with no other babies in the family is delighted to provide.

So my husband and I left as soon as he got a transfer opportunity. I didn’t have a full-time job, we hadn’t been able to sell our house, and by all rational measures it was a horribly unwise decision. The sort of decision that would make Gail Vaz-Oxlade drop her jaw and shout “Are you stupid?”

My answer then would have been: “Probably, but I don’t care.”

Gini Dietrich wrote an excellent post over at Spin Sucks (a blog I highly recommend if you’re in the communications field) called “The Success Trap and Regrets of the Dying” where she talks about her own “unwise” decision and reminds us, “we have to define our own success.’

She talks about “the top five regrets of the dying”, and we’ve all seen these lists, but it bears repeating. The list is:
  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish I’d let myself be happier.

#5 is a good reminder, because guess what? We’ve done what we knew was right for our family, and despite the ongoing job search, we are happier.

We’re near both my family and my husband’s. We live in a large, quiet home with a view of the river (do you know how noisy a town home in inner-city Calgary is?). I’ve been fortunate to spend two years at home with my daughter, and I had no idea how much I would enjoy that, even while juggling a part-time job from my home office and a graduate degree. Our daughter knows her cousins. Her grandmother can see her anytime she wants, and Nanny doesn't mind the 5-hour drive.

Thanks to Gini, I’m going to make a renewed commitment to remember #5: Whenever I get worried about my job search or our finances, I’ll look out the front window at the ducks, take a deep breath, and remember to be grateful for our complete disregard of financial planning rules.

So, figment-of-my-imagination Gail Vaz-Oxlade, I still don’t care.

We had a goal, and we achieved it. The rest is just details.

Now it’s your turn: How do you define success?