Saturday, October 25, 2008

What does YOUR price tag say?

"Madame Pericand felt that each social class should wear some sign indicative of their station to avoid any misconceptions, just as shops displayed price tags."

                         ~Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky

Doctor: So, you dropped out of your PhD program didn't you?

Me: Yep.

Doctor: Well, now what are you going to do, I mean, why would you drop out of it, I mean, you should be doing so much, I can't remember, what do you do right now?

Me: I'm a teacher and an artist.

Doctor: (scowl and smirk together cross his face) An artist? A teacher? Are you just trying to be poor. I mean, what are you going to DO? You can't just do that the rest of your life.

Me: Actually, I am really hap.....

Doctor: What about law school? What about the PhD program at U of U? Have you applied there? Have you thought of that. You're such a smart girl, you should be doing more than what you are doing. Your life isn't over you know.

Me: um, yeah, I know. (insecurity strikes...and for some reason, i get dragged into this conversation that I don't know why is taking place--with my Doctor, who comes across really poorly in this interaction, but who is usually such a great guy)...but yeah, law school, that would be cool.

Doctor: Exactly, now you're thinking....blah...blah...blah...on and on...and...on....

....and my mind wanders to what I am doing with my life and I start to feel a bit smaller (see Sugar's post). Am I wasting my life in small town USA? Obviously my doctor thinks I am a smart girl. Obviously he thinks I am capable of a lot more than what he currently sees before him. And obviously he sees me passing time as just a teacher and just a struggling artist.... according to him, and probably most people in the world, I should try to remedy that quickly.

"Alas, we-- Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness-- Could not ourselves be kind."

                                                     ~ Bertolt Brecht

When I graduated from NYU, I could have followed my head and been on the fast track to fame and fortune. I worked for a very "important" woman. Again and again she let it be known that she was the one who would give me my big break. She lived on Fifth Avenue, her son was a multi-million dollar film producer, she was a published writer, and she, like Madame Pericand in the novel, believed that people had price tags. And, for awhile, I allowed her to treat me like my price tag was much, much less than hers....and in return, I would get what everyone wants. All her assistants had.

Sometimes I find myself thinking back to my stint in the big city....wondering what I gave up. There was a time in my life when I was on a first name basis with the people at Dior. There was a time in my life when I was able to go shopping at Versace and people rushed to do my bidding (well, her bidding really). There was a time in my life where men in white gloves opened all my doors and pushed all the elevators buttons for me, a time when I got into black limos, a time when I got the first bags released from Gucci, and a time when I got high off of this type of living.

People envied me. For the people who heard my tales, my price tag was high, I was living THE life. I had it made. I was going to be famous. I was going to be rich. I was going to be everything this world tells you that you should strive to be.

And then....I decided to move back to Utah. No one understood. Many still don't understand.

Now, instead of Dior, I help my dad weed his garden. Instead of making reservations at the newest five start restaurant, I made dinner for my brother last week. Instead of looking out onto Central Park West from the penthouse apartment, I had a late night girl chat with my sister. And, instead of getting that screenplay into the right hands, I helped my baby sister write her resume yesterday.  And now, instead of a million nameless faces pushing past me on the street...each in search of that dream, my nieces and nephews know my name....

They didn't before.


Stina said...

I find myself feeling so many parallels to your thoughts in this post, except instead of "moving to Utah" it is "motherhood." I am still struggling to figure out who I am in this new role and just today was telling a friend that I'm having a hard time going from being totally selfish to having to prioritize another human being above myself. I wrote about learning a lot of humility so far; sometimes when I am sitting there breastfeeding, I want to scream out "But I have a degree from Harvard you know!" (To whom I am trying to "prove" something, I do not know. Maybe myself?) I don't think I am making much sense, but I wanted to say that I do feel empathetic to your feelings in this post, even if they don't seem similar on the surface.

In terms of a "price tag" though, isn't living authentically all about what makes YOU happy and not what other people see on the tag? I guess I am still trying to figure out what my own price tag says, before I worry too much about what others see or label me as.

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Wow. Very powerful post. What constitutes a "successful" live....

My daughter is a music major and loves it. She has no idea where this will lead.

Alisa said...

It makes me think, though. You know how when something is really worth a lot it doesn't have a tag? It's like if you have to ask what the price is, you can't afford it. I think people fall into that category. We're all too pricey to put a tag on.

Kimbie said...

this is the most powerful thing i have ever read.

thank you so very much.

Dottie said...

This is just 'the world according to Dottie' which doesn't really mean a whole lot because it's your personal experience and your life is what you decide to do with it. I am always amazed by your adventures and the choices that you take to bring you back to where you are now.

But for me, even though your doctor is a great guy, who is he to criticize you for your choice of career? If there is something inside of you that is pushing you another direction, then it would be wise to explore and see what lies ahead. However, no one should pursue something simply for status or money.

The measure of a person's life isn't about how much money they made or the kind of job they had. It isn't about how expensive their price tag is. It's in the day to day moments that were savored. It's in the joys and sorrows, the ups and down. In the victories and the losses. It lies in the deep connections we foster with those we love. Rich or poor no one should live with a measuring stick of what others perceive as successful (we see the damage that does just within the LDS community in Utah).

I could go on and on about this subject, but in the end you came back to Utah for a reason. Why, donno. But your life has brought you back here, possibly to prepare you for something else to come. Either way I'm happy that you did come back home because it's been great to be around you again and to get to know April better. I was reading in my journal about my times in Tallahassee and when you and I hung out and would take our strolls around Tallavilla. I will always treasure those moments that I got to share with you.


Kate Lord Brown said...

D'Arcy - this is a beautiful post. Your tag would read simply: Priceless.

smiles4u said...

What a beautiful, deep, thought provoking post. I am sitting here at the end of another busy weekend and what a gift it is for me to read your words.
I must say that I believe that all people have worth that is priceless. Most people have no clue to their worth and value, so can't possible live up to their potential. Most people don't have any idea of their greatness. I think many of us look to others to give us our worth or price shows in our choices and the way we treat ourselves.

I also think there are a lot of people that put on a pretense of having a high value, based on external things such as wealth, status, their prestigous career, can see it in their arrogance and superiority and superficialness, but, deep down inside, when they are all alone, they don't feel their true value and worth as a human being.

In one sense this doctor was complimenting you. He see's you and all that you "are" and must know all that you are capable of doing and making of your life. But, the thing is he doesn't have a clue to all that you are doing with your life, right now. I know that you gave up a lot to be where your at right now and I have already told you a while ago, that you will never regret these choices. In my eyes, knowing what I know of you and what your doing with your life right now, knowing what sacrafices you have made to be in this place, increases your "price tag". The gift you have given your family, your neices and nephews is beyond priceless. To spend this time doing things that you will never win a famous award for...whether it be weeding the garden with your father or taking your neice to feed the horses, say everything about your character and your authenticity.

I also know that you are young and have a lot of life to live yet. This time right now is a season in your life. This season in your life is preparing you for the next.

I personally think your value as a teacher and artist is beyond greatness. You touch lives with both.

Thank you for giving me much to think about here. Another great post my dear friend.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing more than doing what makes you happy. Few people don't even have the choice.

My students were talking about this idea the other day. The spoiled ones said they wanted money and hot women. The one real grown up in the class said her success would be her family as happy in the future as it is now.

Gustav said...

You are one of the richest people I know.

Your wealth is revealed in your photographs, your art, your travel experiences,your family and friends.

The most valuable things in life are priceless and are free.

"Be you, not what anyone else thinks you should be."

- famous prophet from Nine Worlds

Marie said...

I love this posting. You hear this so much, even in Christian culture which is supposed to be a counter-culture. This is the mentality that has impoverished our education system -- most of the great minds get pulled into that "you're better than this" mentality and end up being doctors and lawyers and, however kind and good they may try to be, like your doctor they very often end up preaching that same doctrine to others. My brother is brilliant and visionary and full of energy and he could have done anything and done it well and lucratively, but he consciously chose to be a special educator. He's now getting his masters's in special ed while teaching in the public schools. In Utah. It is hard and unglamorous but he loves it and you can see that he knows he's chosen well.

It seemed that a good 70 percent of the people in BYU's English department (and I'm sure that number is the same or higher at other universities) considered English just a stepping stone to something Really Important (namely law and med school). Not that we don't need good lawyers and good doctors, but our whole mentality is off when we think that those are the only destinations worthy of intelligent beings.

Thanks for blogging about this. It's one that I won't touch on my own blog because I'm afraid of being branded unambitious. This in spite of the fact that I"m Christian and should be far more afraid of being branded unkind or emotionally unavailable or self-seeking. Hopefully one day I'll be able to get my fears in the right order.... :)

Sugar said...

Thanks for the shout on my Small post. I'm actually liking that simple feeling... a lot.

I came across this quote earlier today: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.” ~Melodie Beatty

And, just to shake things up a bit... I've tagged you. Please read:


Olivia said...

Your conversation with your doctor sounds like me talking to my grandmother, lol. Law school, graduate school, why am I waiting? what am I waiting for?

"You can like the life you're living, you can live the life you like"

Sometimes the life you're living is the mundane everyday kind. Sometimes it's potty training and dirty dishes. But it's still good, and yes, very likable. It has many beautiful moments that would be lost if the pursuit of the material became the drvie of our lives.

And yes, you can do that, you can live the life you think you'll like, the life that everyone tells you you should like and want.

Now I live in one of the "wealthier" areas of the country, and I find myself becoming annoyed by people with money. Every now and then, Anjali and I go into Alexandria to have lunch with Faiyaz. Afterwards we go to a playground near the river until he gets off, then we all drive home together. I am always the only mom at that park, all the other kids are there with their nannys. Very different. I compare the way Anjali and I interact to the nannies. Not that they aren't good nannies, they play with the kids, talk with them, sing the ABCs, but it all seems so rehearsed. You can't replicate the mother/child relationship, you can't replicate human relationships period, so does that have a price tag? Does family?

Like Stina, I'm degressing from your topic, but I think whenever we put human relationships and experiences before material wealth, there's going to be that person saying "why? you're such a smart girl, why?"

Well, because I am a smart girl, that's why.

Ruahines said...

Kia Ora D'Arcy,
What makes you feel more Whole? Having doors opened for you at flash New York stores, waiting for some "important" person to elevate you to then next "level", and being envied by others for being "in"? Or digging in the Earth with your father in a moment you will always have, enjoying the the preparation of real food served to real people you love and adore, or interacting with children you love? I think you know you made the right choice my friend.
Your post captured a lot of my own unhappiness, or confusion, when I lived in America, where "success" is so much based on social position, wealth and status, the sort of car we drive, or how new and big our houses are in comparison with others. It seems we cannot help but look around at what others have. I never felt comfortable with any of that, thus felt I was an outsider in my own country really, yet too afraid to make the break completely until it was thrust upon me. You made a much braver decision D'Arcy, and the world is better for it. I am sure that doctor meant well, but it was from his very narrow view of being driven to pursue his consideration of excellence, not yours.
Yesterday was Charlie's 6th birthday, and we had his cousin stay over night and I cooked dinner for them, we watched a movie, then played monster in the dark where I had to find them and wrestle them in the darkened house. All I had to do was stand still and listen to their giggles, then hysterical laughter as I pretended I couldn't find them. I had as much fun as they did. It didn't cost a penny, yet it was a very Wealthy Moment.

D'Arcy said...

Stina--I love your desire to scream about your degree. It has made me laugh, but also has made me empathetic. When we were out to dinner last Thursday I just kept marveling how well you've done. I love that you could leave Theo for a dinner out with the girls for a few hours, yet,, you are also such a devoted mother that you just seem to be working such a great balance. I want to be like that when I am a mother.

I think you are right, sometimes we are trying to prove more to ourselves than to the demands that anyone else ever puts upon us.

D'Arcy said...

PHHT: Your daughter is following her bliss, I believe that anyone doing that is wealthy and will live a rich life.

D'Arcy said...

Alisa, I agree about that. Yet, I see so many examples of people putting price tags on others...clothes or clubs or political parties or religions or looks or number of children you have or the house you live in...ugh.

But, when it all comes down to it, it's what a person IS not what they DO that really shows how much individual worth we each have.

D'Arcy said...

Kimbie, you are such an amazing person, one who has always been so happy and confident and endlessly beautiful. Your confidence in yourself was a huge influence on my life when I lived around you, it still is. I love you girl.

D'Arcy said...

The world according to Dottie means a lot to me.

And I agree. If my doubts were coming from my own mind, then I would seek out a way to change my life. I have always been that person. I know I am happier here than I was in New York, I know it's a perfect place for me to be right now, however, I was disturbed at myself for finallly giving in at the conversation and telling Dr. that maybe he was right and I should do something else. Oh well.

I posted this most as a discussion about where we find value in our lives. I think you have reached a good point there and I am learning so much from you about it.

D'Arcy said...


D'Arcy said...

smiles4u. How did you get to be so full of love and kindness and acceptance. I feel it from every post that you comment on and everything that I read from you.

I agree with you that one of the greatest tragedies of humanity is that so many don't realize their worth or potential. Can you imagine if we as brothers and sisters of mother earth pulled together as a force of good to live to our highest potentials. I guess that would pretty much be heaven.

D'Arcy said...

mapelba--it's funny what kids will use to calculate their own pricetags. I was reading through my students composition books last week. One young man wrote about how good looking he was in every entry and how it was getting him so many things. I see this young man and the young women flock to him and let him use them, the young men flock to him also because they want to be more like him. You always want these people with the potential to be powerful leaders to be humble and upright, it's disconcerting when you find them insecure and misled about worth.

D'Arcy said...


Thank you for the wise words from the prophet at Nine Worlds. I would respond in kind with a quote of my own:

"Remember, you are constantly in the act of creating yourself. You are in every moment deciding who and what you are. You decide this largely through the choices you make regarding who and what you feel passionate about."

D'Arcy said...

Marie, it is true, I went through the English department at BYU and always thought, am I cheating myself? I know my ambition, I used to feel the need to prove it to people, I still do at times, but I have learned to be a little more quiet and reserved in this area. Yes, it should be so much more about what we are becoming instead of what we are doing. Thanks for your articulate, as always, thoughts.

D'Arcy said...

Sugar! Awesome, yes, small and grateful, I can dig that. I'll stop by your tag post today!

D'Arcy said...

Olivia, you ARE a smart girl, a beautiful, wonderful, enrichingly smart girl. I am so glad we have reconnected through the blogging world. Can you remember us getting to know each other so long ago? I can't believe you'll be the mother of two soon!

D'Arcy said...

Robb, I love your wealthy moments this week. Happy birthday to Charley!!! It is those simple times that are the moments of life. I remember living in New York and reading the book "Think and Grow Rich" it was basically Faust in a different format. I truly believe that whatever you put your heart and soul into will be what you reap, and being monetarily weathly can be one of those, and it doesn't have to be a bad one. My uncle has done amazing things by pursuing a profession that he loved and was good at. My sister and her husband, blessed financially, are living good lives. I'd like a balance, I don't want to sell my soul to the world of material things, but I'd like to get good enough at what I am doing to create a good life and a life where I can help others.

I digress. I just don't want anyone thinking I am putting down money...that's not the point of the post, but if we find our value in what we own and how much we make, then I think a reevaluation is needed...but, I know, I am preaching to the choir!!

Thanks Robb, great story. I'd like to meet your boys one day. When are you coming to Utah?

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

You made the right choice coming back to "the source" (ie: Utah), girl. We all saw "The Devil Wears Prada". You made the right choice.

Living authentically is where it's at. It's not a dress rehearsal and you sure as hell don't want to look back with regret on the one life God blessed you with...

Today, when Hubster and I took a couple of hours in the middle of the day to go to our favorite park and walk the dogs, it was such a simple, lovely pleasure for me... I inhaled the Fall air, took delight in the sight of the wind dancing in the tops of the trees, and made sure to soak up every bit of the moment. Too often, we forget our IMPERMANENCE on this planet. 100 years from now, we'll all be gone. All our "Important Stuff" will either be gone, or will belong to someone ELSE.

It's so important that we enjoy our time here, live authentically and don't look back wtih regret.

People who are focused on status, price tags and material wealth ultimately have "hollow bunny" lives.... (Kevin at our church did a message on the "hollow chocolate bunny" versus the "solic chocolate bunny" and how deceptive it can be to look at them both... after all, they frequently look identical to the casual observer...)

Anyway, it's all about QUALITY of one's life. Did you ever read Robert Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"? He delves into this very thing....
great book. I'd recommend it.

Excellent topic and one I could go all night on, but I won't.... time for this kid to hit the sack.

I shall talk to you soon, my beautiful friend!

Your Pal,

Boquinha said...

Speaking from the perspective of people who have walked away from big money to live more authentically, the doctor is just jealous. :P

Read the book "Take Back Your Time" -- it's a fabulous book and a wonderful organization and has strongly affected how we look at things. Look at people in Europe--they know how to live. Why do Americans rush around, always in pursuit of more? Why are so many scared to be happy doing what works for them, despite what the price tag says?

I'm telling you, D'Arcy, a lot of very smart and creative people go into medicine and most of them don't have time to pursue what they used to enjoy--writing, reading, sports, you name it. And I'd venture to say that many of them don't think it's worth the trade off. But they feel stuck. Alcoholism and divorce are high among physicians. They could use a little more teaching and art, if you ask me.

If someone came to the door and offered us triple what we're making to go back to working those obscene hours . . . or even 40 hours a week . . . we'd say no. We love our flexibility and we're so so happy.

Let go of what others think, confidently tell them how happy you are, live authentically, love deliberately, and BE. :)

Olivia said...

It's hard to believe it sometimes myself...I've got the one down, now I'm going to juggle two? It's a little intimidating...And yes, I'm glad we've reconnected as well, your blogs brighten my day, although I'm still looking forward to seeing you again...

Steve and Jenn Fletcher said...

One thing about my chosen field (stay-at-home mom) is that I don't go out much. No need for a price tag when I am home. Plus, I couldn't find it, anyway, if I wanted to because I am way too scatterbrained these days. I'm always misplacing stuff like that. And even if I did find that darned price tag, one of the kids would wipe their nose on it and I would just have to take it right off anyway.

Besides, my kids get me for free.

Hey, one question:

Why ARE you still in Utah? I mean, why UTAH? I get the whole New York artificial crap thing and why you didn't want to stay there, but...UTAH? I guess I just am wierd that way, but after four years there for college I was SOOOOO excited to leave.

But then, I think everyone must think I am nuts to love Iowa, so to each his own, eh?

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

I have something for you over at my site.

Kate Lord Brown said...

Yey D'Arcy! I was just over at Pseud Hi Teacher and saw your award! Congratulations - so deserved for all these beautiful posts. x

Tricia said...

Brilliant post. It's easy to be bound by golden handcuffs, but much more difficult to find our own key to happiness. It sounds like you have, and it's beautiful.

D'Arcy said...


D'Arcy said...

Tricia, thanks for visiting my blog. I love your words and would love to read more of them!

ophelia rising said...

We are all of us so discontented, sometimes. We all feel like we have to find our happiness without, rather than within. But, really, our happiness lies in ourselves, and what we mean to other people, and what they mean to us. In other words, love.

Without love, we are just floundering in this life. No amount of money or material success can help us, if we are lost. Only love can.

I am so glad you realize this. I wish more people did. I wish I could take this with me, always. I know that I sometimes falter, but in the end I hope that it always comes back to me - that love is always the answer.

Hey, It's Ansley said...

I love this post and need to sit and think a while about my version of success and how to get there. Thank you for being so willing to open up and share.