Diane von Furstenberg.
September 6, 2008
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but… I knew the woman I wanted to become.”
This is the first line of an American Express commercial that has played during every episode of Project Runway, and I feel it’s exactly right. I don’t really know what I want to do, but I know the kind of person that I want to be, and I can make deliberate choices to help me reach that goal.
I don’t know what I want to do. I’d like to be an arts administrator – a title with many and varied meanings, and hundreds of possible paths. I’d like to travel, I’d like to pursue a Fulbright, I’d like to get a doctorate. I don’t know what career I want. Perhaps I’ll teach someday – perhaps I’ll be a full-blown academic with a distinguished professorship at a respectable institution, my articles published in well-known journals, with my sights on a deanship. Perhaps I’ll run for city council with the goal of serving as an arts commissioner. Perhaps I’ll get a gig with an arts organization, working with educational outreach and public relations. All of those options sound really quite good. And fancy.
But what I DO is not as important as who I AM while I do it. I want to be the kind of woman who is warm and friendly and kind, who has elegant dinners with colleagues and backyard barbeques with friends. I want to know more than I say aloud, and be asked for advice rather than dispensing it without regard. I want to know when it’s better to listen and when a response is the best thing, and be able to tell the difference without asking.
I want to know the difference between good wine and bad, and be gracious enough to not give a shit – because really, in the scheme of things, how important is that? That’s what it is – I want to know things that are unimportant, and know how truly trivial those facts are.
I want to be able to express myself with the elegance and dignity of my boss-lady and the humor and quickness of Jon Stewart. But I want to do things, also – I never want to stop doing things. I want to be the sort of person who will always pick up the hammer or start doing the dishes.
I want to age gracefully.
I want to do something positive – to leave a legacy of good things.
I want the people who are in my life now to want to remain, and I want to deserve them.
I have this mental image of myself as an older woman – I see her in my mind as I describe how I hope she’ll act. I have the sense that she is the same sort of person I always find myself attracted to – sophisticated, elegant, well-spoken, accessible. Well-behaved, but not stiflingly so. Worthy. A woman of substance.
That’s who, and how, I want to be. It’s a lofty goal, but I’m feeling lofty this evening, so I’m telling you about it. I fully expect to fall short, but I think the higher you aim, the more likely it is that you’ll be satisfied with the final result.