My grandfather was one of five finalists in an audition for the Metropolitan Opera. At the same time, his temporary work assignment turned into an offer for a permanent job as the head of the New York office.
He turned it all down and moved back to Cleveland with my grandmother.
Why? Because my grandmother wasn’t happy in New York. It was too chaotic, and she just couldn’t find her footing there.
So they returned home. Raised two children. Spent time with friends. Traveled. My grandfather performed to rave reviews in community theater and at various family events; my grandmother volunteered and created award-winning art.
Together, in Cleveland, they were happy.
* * *
I could easily turn this post into an epic love story, but that’s not why I’m sharing it. I’m sharing it because, to me, it’s the epitome of knowing what you want for your life and not giving a damn what others might think.
My grandfather was clear on what he wanted—to be a loyal, loving husband. His definition of success didn’t depend on a fancy job in NYC or a role with a world-renowned opera; it was about doing whatever he could to make my grandmother happy.
So what if his boss wasn’t thrilled with him for turning down the job? Who cares what others might say about throwing away a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like singing at the Met? He would have a strong, love-filled marriage, and that meant more to him than anything else in the world.
It’s important to note that he didn’t lose himself to my grandmother's happiness. He simply modified his dreams, serving as the director of PR for a local advertising agency and spending over five decades performing all over Cleveland.
And in the dozens of times he’s told me this story, he’s never shown even a smidgen of regret.
* * *
We all have dreams. Big dreams. It’s just that sometimes as you get closer to making them come true, you realize you want to modify them a bit. Or maybe you achieve exactly what you’d set out to do, when — SURPRISE! — you discover it was actually just a stepping stone to get you to an even bigger dream. Or maybe you find out that what you’ve been working towards isn’t even what you really want after all.
Or maybe you can’t even make any progress because thoughts like “But I’m supposed to…” and “But everyone will say…” get in the way. Fear keeps you from taking those steps towards what will make you feel truly happy and fulfilled.
The trick is to be open to the possibilities, let go of what everyone else might think, and listen as your inner GPS guides you towards joy.
Will it be as easy for you as it was for my grandfather? If you’re anything like me, not even close. So be gentle with yourself, do the best you can, ask for help when you need it, and keep in mind that my grandfather’s also the kind of guy who’s followed every doctor’s every instruction to the letter for the entire 95 years (so far) of his life.
We can’t all be like him, but it certainly can’t hurt if we try.
Katie Baron: life coach, freelance writer, animal and nature lover, musician, relentless optimist