Success and Happiness

“If you couldn’t do what you are doing now, what would you do?” My customers at table four, enjoying their rosé, seemed genuinely interested in how I would answer the question. “I mean, I know you are traveling the world, performing, and auditioning and stuff here, but what if you couldn’t sing or perform at all? What would you be doing instead?”

This is obviously a question I have asked myself before. Not necessarily when I paused to reflect my choice of profession, but also when trying to identify a way I could possibly live closer to my family and still be a happy individual.

“I don’t know…” I didn’t have much time to stand here chatting, table eight was an irritable couple that would certainly want their bill soon, table thirteen had just sat and needed drinks, five needed dessert, two more people just walked in, and I needed water. “I guess I would be an artist, or a writer, or a personal chef, or maybe I would just own a catamaran and sail around the Seychelles taking rich people on private tours. Or a teacher, or an urban garden director. Or a Mom. I don’t know…” I smiled and starting laughing on the inside, realizing how quickly I had blurted it out, and how ridiculous it sounded. Moving on to table eight, and with a genuine and massive smile, “Would you two like anything else tonight?”

It’s hard to live this transient and somewhat unpredictable life. I am an artist, but at what personal cost? There’s no way of predicting the future, knowing where I’ll be in three months, financial stability is a laughable notion, and let’s just say that taking food orders and wiping olive oil off my hands every day isn’t the most satisfying of all situations. But then those moments of artistry still happen and I am completely satiated.

A trip back to Santa Barbara this last weekend for a dear friend’s wedding was another one of those social moments when one is forced to reflect personal “success” and how to even define the idea. Of course I wish I were in a Broadway show, hell, I’d take off off off Broadway right now. I’d do just about anything I was offered if it sounded artistically aligned with who I am. But my idea of a low moment in my career, when I am just working in a restaurant, auditioning my butt off (and getting callbacks with no offers to follow!), and trying to remind myself to eat healthy and go to the gym so my membership is actually being used… Well it’s not perceived the same way by my friends. “I’m so jealous you’re still in New York!” “You’re so lucky you’ve gotten to travel to so many places by singing!” “Ashley, you really should look into modeling as a side job instead of waiting tables.” (I love this last comment from my dear friend Cynthia.)

And it seems that our successes really are relative. And that the grass is always greener. I certainly had so many pangs of jealousy thinking of my friends that are back in California, that are making a difference in the world with ambitious and astounding careers, that are getting married and starting families. But everyone has their own path, I suppose.

And at this point, my path is a little rocky, a little difficult… But it’s still my path. I surely could imagine myself doing any number of other professions and being happy. Being that personal tour guide in the Seychelles actually sounds ridiculously perfect. But being an artist, bringing joy to audiences (even if it’s few and far between these days), creating moments of beauty… This is what really makes me me. And even in the struggle to achieve “success” in this field, whatever that means, I’m sure I will have stops and opportunities along the way to be an artist (see my apartment), to be a writer (this blog), a personal chef (have you ever had dinner here?), a teacher (I’ve done it before and could do it again), a Mom (someday, for sure)… And I’ll settle with being a tour escort on a Silversea cruise in the Seychelles for that last one.

At the top of the mountains in Mahe
At the top of the mountains in Mahe, Seychelles

6 thoughts on “Success and Happiness

  1. Linda June 3, 2013 / 12:26 pm

    love this!

  2. Dee Hamil June 3, 2013 / 12:44 pm

    Always wishing you success and happiness. It’s not what some people in their infinite wisdom think you should do. It’s not even what you think you should do. It’s what you feel you want to do. Your talents are boundless and your driving force is over the top. Continue to focus on the positives and all will right itself. Love you.

    • Linda June 3, 2013 / 9:24 pm

      Grandma hits the nail, right on the head! We all believe in you- go for it!!

  3. loreduser June 3, 2013 / 5:15 pm

    Thank you Ashley for a beautiful write up. I certainly hope that you big opportunity will cross your path soon. We are certainly praying for you. So many people, including me, would give their eye teeth to have some of the experiences you have had. They are now part of ;you. Your memory inventory is rich and it will always be part of you. no one can take that away. Wishing you well in whatever you do, I always love you beyond measure. Your loving Oma

  4. Richard Kuehn June 3, 2013 / 7:02 pm

    Dear Ashley,

    We’ve not had the pleasure of meeting as I’m a physician friend of your Mom – we worked together back in the 80’s and 90’s in Labor and Delivery at Kaiser-Hayward.

    I’ve enjoyed following your blog and your travels, but this post really hit a nerve due to my interaction with several young people I’ve met around the world. Currently we’re in western China having followed the ancient Silk Road westward around the Taklamakan Desert to Kashgar near the border with Pakistan. I’m writing this morning (we’re 12 hours ahead of you in NYC) to ask whether or not I might share this with a few young people in my life? Of course, I’d leave it just the way you wrote it and give them some background about your life: thoughts?

    Be well,

    Rich Kuehn

    PS-You’d have to be REALLY good with acrobatics to be a performer in China: it is amazing how the young girls contort themselves and fly around the stage, lol!

    • ashharrell June 3, 2013 / 11:55 pm

      Rich, thank you for the comment! Yes, please feel free to share this with whomever you like. Safe travels in China, I have always wanted to visit! Maybe someday…

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