“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. Anyone who expects you to do any of those things has no sense of history or economics or science or the arts.

You have to pay your electric bill. You have to be kind. You have to give it all you got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. But that’s all.” 

― Cheryl Strayed

I discovered this quote over the weekend. It resonates with me on multiple levels. As a little girl growing up in an Indian household, good grades, a hard work ethic, and becoming a professional were emphasized as mandatory pursuits. A small part of me understands why it was so important to my parents to raise children who achieved. I believe, from what I observed in my childhood and now as an adult, that this philosophy is anchored in one word: status.

Status? How do you define it? Is it important to you? Does status define your choice of employment? Do you buy things based on how others react to it? Do you believe status really means anything at all? These are interesting questions to ponder. I must confess that in my twenties, my goals centered around this status driven concept. Introducing myself as an attorney became a pathway to tell people, yes, I made it in the world. Almost fifteen years later, the word status means something very different to me.

When I left my legal career almost 6 years ago, an immediate identity crisis simmered. How would I introduce myself now? Mother? In-between jobs? And why did I care so much about how others viewed my choice to step away from the law? Did my value as a person decrease because my answer to the cocktail question was much different?

As I get older, I am less and less impressed by the material.  What I own or what others possess fades into the background. That does not mean that I dislike nice things. Like most, I splurge on the things that I love. Here’s the difference: I make those purchases because I enjoy them, not because I am looking to raise my status by impressing others. I am pursuing a career that does not carry dollar signs or huge bonuses. Writers are rarely motivated by monetary goals.

Mid-life is marked by reviewing notions of status and who you are at the core. I am more conscious of who I am inside, rather than a professional title that sounds like I am a successful person. Do I still crave the need for achievement? Yes. I think we all do. But the difference is I am doing it for myself.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on status. What do you believe about it? And how does it shape you?