"What do you want to be when you grow up, little girl?" adults would ask me when I was very little.
"A scientist!" I'd shout proudly, and feel good at the looks on their faces.
And from there it evolved-- artist, dancer, psychologist, politician, lawyer, nonprofit head, physicist, mathematician, and then finally landing on computer science in a haphazard way.
In high school, I was arrogant and headstrong around career. I wanted to be successful, I was obsessed with doing well in career. I'd devour biographies of successful people, I'd read all about how they had no sleep and lived off coffee, I'd think critically about the habits I needed to succeed.
When I was tired in my bones I'd think about how many people I could help if I achieved my career goals, and my body seemed an okay sacrifice to make to help so many one day. If the goal wasn't money or fame, it was helping people
but it was always outside myself.
In college this fire continued to burn, even as the walls around me started to collapse, and I clung onto it not anymore for the need to be glorious & great but simply for the need to survive, to crawl out of the minimum wage life I was living, a dream to cling onto to hope for a better life.
And when I achieved that dream, when I was working those dream jobs, the fire left me but I kept marching forward. I advanced in career fast, got promotions fast, got praise fast, started getting wider recognition and
I started to slow
I started to rest
I started to think
isn't this what I wanted?
And I stand here, after my decade and a half of marching tirelessly toward a dream and what I feel more than anything is loneliness.
But the questions people ask me to judge happiness wouldn't think so. They ask about money, career, customers, where I've worked, where I've traveled, what I'm doing.
People post about traveling the world complete with pictures of different places and they post nice promotions and talks they gave to big crowds and I think, "I've done all those things and it didn't bring me happiness."
I want to shake the young girl I used to know and tell her that the reason she was striving so much for career was a mix of taking her current friendships & health for granted and a burning insecurity and ego issue.
So, the lesson I'm learning now is a lesson that movies have taught me my whole life, that love really is most important. Love for your own body, and real, deep, lasting, meaningful love with others. I don't hate my past self. I think she was optimistic and wanted to do good things, but she forgot to take care of the foundation of her house.
I don't want to live near this beautiful beach, I want to live near friends and family.
I want to sink my feet in the ashes of lost friendship and build ones anew.
I don't yearn to travel, be a multi-millionaire, be famous, or have a great career more than I yearn for love.