About a year after I was hired for my first job out of graduate school, still pretty fresh and green, I was having a conversation with the woman who’d been one of the first people who interviewed me. The conversation turned political in nature. I don’t remember how we got there, but at one point she said to me ‘You don’t believe everyone has the same opportunity do you?’ Rather naively and optimistically, I answered, ‘Of course they do.’ Stunned, she looked at me and said: ‘Well, you’re blonde and blue-eyed; it’s easy for you.’
After I got over the shock of having everything that I’d accomplished up to that point discounted to a bottle of bleach and a few chromosomes, I thought about my answer.
I was wrong.
What I should have said that day and what I firmly believe today, was that no, everyone doesn’t have the same opportunity. I don’t wake up with the same open doors as my brother, my friend, my colleague, my boss, a co-writer on Elliquiy or the lady I buy my lunch from.
But we all share one thing for certain. We all share the freedom to choose.
I choose how I approach every day.
I choose how I handle adversity.
I choose whether to smile and say hello to that stranger or look down at the ground in an expression of the insecurity that rages inside.
I choose not to react but instead evaluate and act accordingly.
Like everyone, I make mistakes and I don't always make the right choices, either. I’m not being overly hard on myself when I say that I make more mistakes than most because I learn better that way. I push headlong into whatever it is that I’m doing and then try like hell to stay afloat. I always feel out of my league when I’m doing something new; I’m never confident in my abilities, and perhaps I shouldn’t be. Sometimes it’s not about how much you know, but about how willing you are to admit that you really don’t know.
The mistakes inevitably happen, but I choose to learn from them and then file them away as experience. Make enough mistakes, learn a little bit more each time and make good choices as a result and it'll translate into opportunity and open doors.
We are not the sum of our achievements. We are the sum of our choices in life, no matter how big or how small.