Can you remember what you wanted to be when you were a kid? Was it a fireman, a ballerina, an astronaut? How many of us became the person we thought we would be? In my last year before turning half a decade old, I still think I can do anything. I know it sounds naive, but I believe it.
I grew up in the north side of Pittsburgh in a typical, low-income row home that included rats the size of guinea pigs. My mom worked two jobs, so we usually stayed with my very Italian grandparents. In their home, food was the principal priority. We had at least three meals a day, and it was always a smorgasbord. I was a bit … well-fed. I still remember having to shop in the husky section at Hills Department Store. I am sure I remember there was a blinking sign over the size 14 irregular jeans that said, “This section is for hefty kids who eat Twinkies for breakfast.” We weren’t really encouraged to go out and play, but it didn’t help that we lived on a steep hill by the main highway. I think our street was Pittsburgh’s version of the Hunger Games. It turned out that, most days, we just ate junk food and watched old-people TV.
On one particular afternoon, I thumbed through the TV Guide. And there it was on page 62 – a “Draw Cubby” advertisement. This was a monthly contest where the winner could receive a $995 art scholarship (yes, you read that right) or a top prize of $5,000. The idea was for participants to draw the cartoon character and send it in. And every month, this prestigious company would pick a winner. This was incredible and more money than I could imagine! I ran to my Pap (granddad) and showed him my sketch. It was his words that very day that sparked my desire to be more. He said, “Cinders. (That was my nickname from him.) You aren’t like the rest of us. You have something special. You can win this contest. And you know what else? You can do anything that you want because you’re smart and you have heart.” It is amazing what small words of encouragement can do for one’s soul.
What I didn’t realize at that age is life can hit you pretty hard. My family suffered many tragedies from suicide, depression, incarceration, drunkenness – all issues that sounded like the rejected dwarfs of Snow White. But even in those dark times, those words were stuck in my head. I am still a “glass is half-full” kind of gal. I want to solve the homeless problem in Central Florida, open a few of my own businesses, help my parents pay off their house, and, of course, world peace. But, I am also realistic. So, for many years, my set goals have only been what I foresaw to be truly attainable, which isn’t a bad thing; it just doesn’t leave room for dreaming.
I’ve read (and heard) statistics about goal achievement, and one reason many people fail in achieving their goals is that they don’t write their goals down. I totally get that. Because then, there is accountability once it’s in print. We actually have to work at making it happen. And then, there is the bigger issue; what if we fail at achieving these goals? Aye, and that’s the rub.
So if truth be told, some of my own goal setting seems to be related to ego. Ick, I just said that out loud. As much as I care about failure myself, I seem to be concerned about what others might think about me if I fail. You’d think after 49 years of life, I’d feel a little more comfortable with being human.
The truth is failure is always an option. Steve Jobs said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
Ask yourself: What in your life is truly important? Because that is what it’s all about. We will find a way to do the things that are important to us … and usually at any cost. Life is short, my friends. Make the most of every day.