Whatever you do, be happy.
These words from my late father floated through my mind as I drove home with my husband.
We had had a great day “playing hooky” in Charleston. Meandering the historic streets, buying each other Tecovas cowboy boots for Christmukkah, tucking into shrimp and grits at the Swamp Fox — in the hotel that was home base when we first scouted Charleston as a possible place to live.
Driving beneath the lush canopy of live oak trees, Dad’s words came back to me:
“Whatever you do, be happy.”
He meant it to apply to my career. Jay Kaufman had graduated from Columbia University with a Master’s in Medieval Literature and was pursuing a PhD. In Philosophy and Classics. But with a wife to support and a baby on the way (me), he let go of his passion for scholarship and took a job. With his father-in-law…who was a self-made business tycoon and a bully, and had come from Austria-Hungary at the age of 15, not speaking English.
My father indentured himself and worked at my grandfather’s company for 25 years. Yes, he earned a good living, and gave good service, rising through the ranks on his merit. But he sacrificed the career he wanted to pursue on the altar of a career that provided financially.
Not that that was a bad or a wrong choice.
But when he said, “whatever you do [career-wise], be happy,” I know it came from the pain of someone who hadn’t – and paid the psychic price.
Fast-forward, and I realize I’m living out Dad’s wishes. I followed the career I was supposed to. (Because what Jewish family doesn’t want a lawyer in it?)
But now – thanks partly to him — I get to explore the career I really want. Whatever that may be.