When I was twenty, I used to spend all my time with a group of friends that I adored. There was one friend in particular who I thought was absolutely great — she was smart, cultivated, and brilliant.
I totally admired her. She was everything I was not.
She was completely relaxed in social groups, she spent her Sundays reading Le Monde but also bought Voici (a sort of Us Weekly) for the crossword puzzles (and she was totally confident about it, which made her even cooler) and she had an ‘art of life’ and an ease that just killed me.
She was the kind of girl who makes things happen and brings people together like it’s the easiest thing in the world.
Thanks to her, I did the first things I was ever really proud of — I started a rock band*, organized concerts**, and even dropped out of college***.
We were in college at the same time and we both grew a lot together. After college, she naturally became a journalist. Again, seemed easy. She was good with people, writing came naturally to her, and she always brought a great energy to everything she did. Within a few years, she had become a local celebrity.
I thought “One day, she’ll become president”.
As for me, during that time I was still looking for my path — it was hard, but she always helped me. She was always there for me. I wrote for her magazine several times. When I started working in the Communications department for a cinema, she was the one who helped me write my first press release.
Ok you got it. I adored her.
Then, eventually I started my blog, my life changed completely, and I moved to Paris. I met tons of people there, some of which were journalists, and some of them worked for the newspapers that my friend read so religiously.
And every time, I thought to myself that they couldn’t even hold a candle to her.
I knew that if she would only come to Paris, I could introduce her to a few people and her career would skyrocket. I saw her becoming the Editor in Chief of a big cultural or news magazine. She was made for that.
So that’s what I told her. Several times. I think I even started to get annoying about it.
“You have to come, I’m telling you! Just two weeks in Paris. Come stay with me, I’ll introduce you to the people I told you about, and you’ll never want to leave!!!” Remember when we were reading ***’s column, that journalist you love? He’s a friend of mine now!!! He wants to meet you!!! Come on!! Please, you have to come!!!”
She never really gave a clear answer. Sometimes she’d say yes. One day, not now, maybe later.
And I never understood it. I was discovering that the world was right there, and realizing that all the people we admired were not necessarily inaccessible, which is often what we imagine when we live far away from big cities. I couldn’t understand why a girl as brilliant as my friend would waste her talent. I thought maybe she was afraid, and that I just needed to push her a little bit.
Not for one second did I imagine that she maybe she just didn’t want to.
Not for one second.
I must have put too much pressure on her, because little by little, we fell out of touch.
I only understood much later that it had been my fault.
I had tried to project my own dreams on her. I’m sure I upset her by making it seem like her dreams were too small and that she absolutely had to spread her wings wider.
When actually, she was happy just the way she was.
And that message I was sending to my friend a few years ago to the point of possibly hurting her — I hear it all the time in the media these days.
It’s fantastic, of course, to see women succeed, to see them heading big companies. It’s great to try to pass on the message that we can “succeed at everything all at once” (have a fulfilling family life, a happy husband, a dream body, a blossoming social life, and a job that challenges us)(even if I don’t think this is true, but that’s a subject for another day), and that we shouldn’t be ashamed of having no limits when it comes to dreaming about our careers.
But we have to be careful not to project our own dreams of success on the people around us.
We live in a society that pushes us to challenge ourselves and to always want something more.
The rock stars these days are female entrepreneurs (Sofia Amoruso, Arianna Huffington Sheryl Sandberg, Natalie Massenet, and the list goes on…) and it’s no longer a matter of just managing to pursue an honorable career (which is hard enough as it is), the goal now is to put your company on the stock market, and while you’re at it, write a book telling other women that they, too, can totally become CEOs of a multinational company.
But it’s also very cool to just love your job as it is, to love the place where you live, and the world you’ve created for yourself, whatever that may be.
It’s cool to just have an awesome shop without having to turn it into a worldwide chain – Colette is a great example of that, by the way. It’s cool to just be the best neighborhood baker, without necessarily wanting to write thirty cookbooks about it. It’s even cool to not work at all. Come on, what? If you have enough money and you’re happy, why not?
You just have to know how to deal with crazy people like me who have enough dreams for 10 people, and how to deal with the endless success stories the media feeds us, and find a life that works for you.
Like my friend, who is still just as brilliant and loved, and who I admire even more today for resisting my pressure.
Because true success is knowing who you really are and what’s your own definition of success. (Even if that sounds like a stupid Pinterest quote.)
What about you? Do you feel the pressure? Does it gives you wings or does it make you doubt about yourself? Are you able to resist it?
*Yep, a rock band where I was the guitarist! I know, I know, you’re dying to see me on stage. NEVER you hear me? Never again.
** We brought stars down to play in the South of France!!!
*** Yep, I’m proud of quitting a program that was getting me nowhere, and I have her to thank for it!
Translated by Andrea Perdue.