I’m not a success by any means. I’m only a marginally published author, and I don’t think I’ll be published any more than I already have been. I’m not an artist, not anymore, even after all the work I put into it over the past ten years. I’m divorced and living in the curtained-off living room of a one-bedroom apartment, most of my stuff in storage. I can’t get a job, despite four solid months of looking—though I do have insurance and some work at The Container Store. The Murphy name terminates with me, in that I have no children.
When my ancestors, who fought and toiled their way through Ireland and Poland to get to the United States and battled in wars and suffered to bring me to being, look at me, will they be disappointed?
Probably not, because I’m happy. I’ve got a lot to worry about, but I live a good life. I have lived a good life. I’ve seen the world. I lived in one of the most exciting cities on the planet for six years. I’m living in an exciting city now. I’ve met countless people who have enriched my life. I’ve written six novels and am in the home stretch of a seventh. I’ve got a cat who may be the most annoying animal in the world, but he is the most precious thing to me. My roommate is the Queen of Cracking Me Up.
I know that my ancestors would see that I’m not toiling in a field eighteen hours a day, that I had married for love, that I’m broke but not starving, that my name and my memory will carry on long after I’m dead because of the people I’ve touched—not just because of genetics, that I can turn my dreams into words that live in my hard drive, but may go elsewhere, who knows, I’m not counting anything out. They would see all of this and breathe a sigh of relief. They would be proud. They may not understand things like cafes, but they would be proud that I go to them so frequently and drown myself in my imagination. They would be proud that I made something of myself. That something may not be CEO or bestselling novelist, but it’s enough. It’s all I want*.
And so, on this, my forty-third birthday, I give myself a slow clap. I did it—I kept it together, despite how hard the world (and my biology) have made it. That calls for some cake.
* Well, that and a freaking job.