The podcast aired years ago, but her comments have stuck with me to this day.
She was a designer, author, entrepreneur and mother whom I admired. Her design work was relaxed but clean and aesthetically attractive. Her voice was gentle, clear and wise. Her social-media feed was minimalist, cool and well-regarded.
Her work, for me, was aspirational across the board.
She talked about her journey. How she went from a nobody to a somebody in a relatively short amount of time. How she happened to be at the right place at the right time for many of her endeavors. She was an early adopter of blogging, and that stroke of luck seemed to have catapulted her career in almost every direction.
But what struck me most was her own take on what would have outwardly appeared as a pinnacle point in her career — that time when she was working on a book, blogging for a large audience, hosting a TV show and partnering in the creation of products for well-known companies.
She said she loved her portfolio. She reached a peak in her career, and when she took the time to look back on all that she had done, she appreciated it. She could open the file that held everything she had accomplished, and she liked how it looked.
But she didn’t like the artist.
I liked the portfolio, but I didn’t love the woman who created it, she said.
Was I aspiring and on track to be like this woman who loved what she produced but not who she was becoming?
She went on to explain how she decided to spend more time working on the artist over the art.
She quit half of her empty endeavors — like creating products she didn’t love for companies she didn’t really care about. She doubled down on her ambitions that really meant something to her — like motherhood, adoption and writing.
She and her family went back to their roots, both literally and figuratively. They moved clear across the country to where they had come from. They rehabbed a centuries-old home in the obscurity of the Midwest’s cornfields.
She began living a life she was truly proud of — both inside and outside the walls of that old space made new.
It’s easy to think when we’ve accrued a portfolio that looks a certain way, we’ll be proud of ourselves. We’ll be at peace with ourselves. We’ll finally love the person we are.
But I wonder if we’d actually end up most bitterly disappointed if we hit all the marks, checked all the boxes and accomplished all the dreams but never came close to the person we wanted to become.
How frustratingly near but tremendously far that would be from the life we dreamed we could live.
I don’t want to look back on the story of my life one day and love all the places I went, the things I created, the people I met and the accomplishments I made but not love what became of the woman in the story.
Maybe the most important work we do will be hidden within the confines of our heart. Maybe what matters more than the work we’re doing is who we’re becoming from the way we do the work that we’re doing.
The portfolio matters, don’t get me wrong.
It’s just that the person holding it matters much, much more.