Monday, May 30, 2011

The Winding Path to the Future

As many students will be graduating in the next couple of weeks, I was struck by a conversation that I overheard between an adult and a student who had just finished his first year of college.
“Are you going to graduate school?” asked the adult of the student.  “What are you going to do with your life?”
It’s possible that these are just simple questions with no underlying meaning, but I don’t think so.
I think as adults, we feel the need to label people and things.  It makes it easier for us.  It’s possible that young people know exactly what they will do with their lives at a young age.  Most likely, though, they don’t know or are coming up with an answer that pleases the person asking the question.  Who really knows where life will lead us?
It seems to me that these are “teachable moments”.  When these questions come up at graduation or other times, what if the young person said, “I am not sure, I think I will do this”.  And, immediately following that, the young person asked, “What did you think you wanted to do at my age, did you do it, and how did it work out? What did you learn from your experiences?”
Instead of making the conversation one where adults just want an answer or one where the young person attempts to come up with an answer, what if we turned it around?
By the time you have lived a number of years as an adult, it’s almost laughable to think someone at the age of 18 or even 22 really knows what is ahead.  Of course, they can have dreams or goals, but really knowing what you are going to do is highly unlikely at such a young age.
I think we would do a great service when conversing with graduates if we supported the concept that life is a journey and asked what are your dreams, but then took the time to help them realize that life has so many winding roads and paths.  Keeping their eyes and minds open to opportunities that arise is really what I would want them to think about.
Next time, you are conversing with a young person who is in the process of making decisions, you might want to consider giving them advice on what you wished you had known and the differences it might have made for you instead of spending too much time having them answer questions they are are not really sure of.
As adults, I think we have a responsibility to encourage young people to take chances. We need to let them know that not only is it OK not to have a specific plan, it’s how life works its magic...leaving a little of life to serendipity.
The problem with making young people label themselves or come up with specific answers is that it doesn’t leave room for all the possibilities.
In 1997, Apple Computer ran the “Think Different” ad campaign.  I loved that campaign because it epitomized what happens when you allow people to dream and not put a label on their future.
Here is the gist of the campaign:
“Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They invent.  They imagine.  They heal.  They explore.  They create.  They inspire.  They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?  Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written?  Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
Here is link to the one minute TV ad:

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Last week, I had a chance to see the movie, “Bridesmaids”.  At the beginning, I thought it would just be a female version of the “Hangover” with a lot of raunchy scenes; but, in the end, it surprised me and I liked it very much.
What I enjoyed was the authenticity of the writing.  Throughout the movie, I was reminded of two concepts that I have come to consider as principles of life.
One principle is the way that true friends know you and, at some point, refuse to let you live a lie or a way of life that isn’t true to your core.  Real friends know that it’s more important to call you on something than let you go ahead and live your life in denial of something you refuse to see.  Sometimes, life is hard and it’s easier to pretend that certain things in your life are not happening.  That’s when those true friends come in and gently (often not so gently) remind you of what you are doing or or not doing.
The second principle is that things are not always as they seem.  Many times, we live our lives feeling that we have not achieved as much as others or that “they” are so much happier than “we” are.  It may look like life is “perfect” for others and that we are somehow running behind; but, often times, the “behind the scene” look is not so perfect or so happy.  That does not mean we should ever take pleasure in someone else’s misery, but it’s just a reminder that we all have our issues and that being happy on our own journey is what is most important.  Comparing ourselves to others is a waste of time, mostly because all we see is the outside.
Anyway, I liked “Bridesmaids” and I enjoyed the special place that women’s friendships play in our lives.  These friendships provide the support and joy that help us through life’s ups and downs.  They are indispensable.
Let me know if you have seen the movie and what thoughts you had.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Feeling Like a Woman in Paris

I was fortunate enough to spend the last week in Paris.  I have been there a number of times, but this trip was a little bit different.
I rented a studio with the most beautiful view of the Eiffel Tour and I had time to enjoy being with a close friend who lives in Paris.
Although I grew up traveling to France throughout my childhood, there seems to be an additional feeling of comfort I get when I am there.  Something makes me completely peaceful.  It’s not just being on vacation.  I have “vacationed” many places.
On this trip, I had more time to get to know Paris and myself.  I think I finally realized what it is that brings me so much peace when I am there.
Now, this may or may not be an experience you can relate to, but I will share my thoughts with you.
As a woman living in the United States, I have always felt the need to be strong and independent and to prove to men, in particular, that I can take care of myself.  Being an attorney was part of that plan.  It is not to say I don’t feel like a woman or that I want to act like a man, but I have felt that in order to gain a certain amount of respect or credibility, I need to be strong.  Many times that means not showing my softer side. 
In Paris, I was totally drawn to the amazing beauty, the food, the make up, the perfume, the clothes, and the lingerie.  Though I love those things at home, I am more “comfortably” drawn to them in Paris.  
It’s as if being a woman is not just OK, but it’s natural and respected there.  I realized that the reason I feel so at peace in Paris is because I don’t feel any need to prove how strong I am.  I watch the Parisian women and although they are a diverse group, they have a way of being extremely feminine and yet completely confident as women and as people.
It’s as if I can take a breath and relax knowing that being less “strong” and being "softer" is much more natural for me.
I asked a male friend of mine there who is French how he views women in business in France.  He felt they are very much respected, but he noted that French women are much more feminine than American women.
I wasn’t offended by that comment.  I think he is probably right overall.  There is a difference between dressing, acting, and feeling sensual and dressing, acting, and feeling sexy.  I think many of our younger generation have not completely understood the distinction.  It’s not about distracting men with a sexy outfit or look.  It’s about being comfortable with your own sexuality.  
Three years ago, I wrote a piece on how what you wear underneath your clothes is just as important as what you wear on the outside (see below if you are interested).
Now, I think I understand more fully what I was feeling when I wrote that piece.
I do love Paris, and Europe in general, but I think what I love most is feeling comfortable enjoying being a whole person, a complete woman, and not needing to be anything other than that.  It’s letting all my defenses down and allowing myself to be completely at ease with being a woman.

Garbage Bras
April 2008
After I posted the Elle Magazine email which featured the models with
less emphasis on makeup, it made me think about something I
experienced on my trip to France last Spring. Years ago, I ran a
parenting network at a middle school. At one point, I invited a new
parent to attend. She was French and she and her husband had brought
their family here for a few years (work related). Anyway, I met her
through that network and we became very close friends. She calls
herself my French soul sister. I know she is right.
Last year, I spent time with her in Paris. We wandered around shops
(where I never buy anything but croissants because I can afford
those). She suggested going into a lingerie shop where she buys her
bras. I said, " not for me, I have a very practical bra and I don't
really have a reason to wear one of those pretty ones". Now, I am
not talking about Victoria Secrets. These bras were beautiful and
comfortable. They were sexy, but in a sensual way, not a slutty way.
I went in to the store because my friend insisted. I told her I have
been "happy" wearing the same brand/style bra since my 19 year old
son was born. For goodness sake, why would I switch now? She said in
a very kind way, "that's a garbage should only wear that
for doing the dishes and for gardening." I told her I don't have
a reason to wear a "pretty" bra. She said, "We (French women) don't need 
a reason to wear beautiful bras. You wear them because they make
you feel beautiful. It's for you. It's how it makes you feel."
I acquiesced. I bought two bras, one gorgeous black one and a flesh
colored beauty. I can't even tell you how wonderful they make me
feel. I know what she means now. It's not about being beautiful or
trying to be beautiful for someone else. It's about feeling
beautiful underneath and having that permeate your existence. I
don't care how old I am or how non-perky my breasts are, they are so
damn happy in those bras...and so am I.
My French girlfriend kids me now when we talk on the phone, "What
bra do you have on?" I kid her back. "I like these bras so much
that I do the dishes in them." I still have garbage bras, but I only
wear them when I want to feel like garbage...which, thank goodness,
isn't very often.