A few days ago, I listened to the commencement speech
Steve Jobs had given at Stanford University in 2005. In addition to being a
technological genius who masterminded some cool gadgets, he understood our
proclivities as human beings to settle in life, to please others before
ourselves, to doubt that there’s a higher purpose for us.
Years ago I copied down a quote by him from that very
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone
else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of
other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your
own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and
intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become. Everything else is
If only I had taken those very words to heart, instead of
pasting them, then forgetting them on my already-crowded wall of cutesy
platitudes like “never (x3) give up” or “No boy is worth crying for, and the
one who is won’t make you cry.”
There’s something to be said for being encouraged to follow
your dreams. My own father’s response to, well, anything I wanted to pursue was
always, “That idea stinks. It’ll never get you anywhere and there’s no money in
it.” So short of becoming a doctor, lawyer or successful entrepreneur, I was
pretty much doomed for failure in his eyes.
Every Thanksgiving, my father toasts to his children’s
accomplishments. My half-brother and sister, that is. He also toasts to my
stepmother’s sister, who came to live with them when she was thirteen. A
straight-A student, she was accepted into Princeton and went on to Pepperdine
law school. My father takes full responsibility for her success. After all,
she’d still be living in the ghetto of East LA had he not invited her to come
live in rich, white suburbia.
I was always the glaring omission at the dinner table,
because anything I did wasn’t up to
Thanksgiving toast standards.
“Guess what, Dad? I landed the lead role in a lesbian
“I’ve decided to go to beauty school, Dad.”
“Dad, I’m working in a retail store…coffee bar…nightclub…
“The business went under, Dad, and now I’m unemployed.”
I’ve since been banished by my father from all things
family-related. I believe it has something to do with failing to live up to his
expectations. Oh, and him feeling like he didn’t get his money’s worth for my
college education. No matter, since he has another business-owning daughter who
suits him much more.
I always knew what my strengths were growing up, and they
were in the arts. By telling my dad I wanted a career in the arts, I may as
well have said, “I’ve decided to become a nude contortionist and I’ll be
performing in the middle of Times Square.” I would have gotten the same
I spent years doing the
corporate thing even though I hated it, simply because I wanted my daddy to be
proud of me. At the same time I tried to pursue acting and writing, in the hope
that it would save me from falling into the vapid corporate hole. Because of not committing fully to either way
of life, I succeeded at neither. And Daddy never failed to remind me of that.
To quote Vivian in the movie, Pretty Woman, “People put you down enough, you start to believe
I think of how different my life might have been if I had
grown up with nothing but unwavering support and encouragement from the man who
is supposed to love me unconditionally.
Perhaps Mr. Jobs wouldn’t have been that enthusiastic over
me playing a lesbian, or pouring coffee in Northern CA for eccentric
schizophrenics, but I’d like to think he would have “walked his talk.” I’d like
to think that instead of attempting to verbally beat me into conventional
submission like my father always did, he’d have supported me regardless of
whether or not he agreed with my choices.
By not having the courage to follow our heart and intuition,
we wind up in sexless marriages, dead-end jobs, drinking too much, and having
Seems like a lot of people are 4 for 4 these days.