My mother suffered from kidney disease my entire life. The only extended memory I have of her not being sick is from the three months her disease went into remission when I was 13, because my brother had given her one of his kidneys.
I was 29 when my mother ultimately succumbed to the disease. It’s a common belief that when someone you love dies from a long-term illness, you're prepared for it. But, the few days after my mother’s death were a complete blur. She was dead, and I'd never get another chance to talk to her. That was it.
But a few days after allowing myself the raw emotions of grief, I started to replay some of our last few conversations.
One of the things she said to me, repeatedly, was to learn from her life. In particular, she encouraged me to live a life of no regrets. When she'd ask about my dreams, she advised me to chase every one of them, no matter how impossible they seemed.
Although my mother wasn’t considered a “professional” woman for most of her life, her approach to the world taught me a lot about how to be successful in work (and life). Her death was a wake-up call and started me on a journey where I completely re-evaluated my priorities.
I changed the way I ate and became a pescatarian. I left a job where I was miserable to follow my dream of working in the travel industry — where I can travel the world and get paid for it — all while making my home base New York City.
As I consciously and continually strive to live a life that’s not filled with regret and settling, I find myself reflecting on four career and life lessons I’ve learned to embrace in these 10 years without my mother:
1. You can learn to do anything you want to do.
My mother believed she could do anything she applied herself to. As a person with kidney disease having to take dialysis three days a week, she cleaned people’s houses in the “nice neighborhoods” part-time while taking care of my siblings and I full-time, making sure we always had a full breakfast, a packed lunch for school, a snack waiting for us when we returned home and dinner before off to bed. I never saw my mother complain or cry out in pain.
2. Don’t give your fears power.
My mom stood up for herself and for her children. She showed us the power of appearing brave and strong, even when you didn’t feel that way. I learned that “fake it till you make it” could be a pretty good strategy in the interim between chasing and accomplishing your dreams.
3. Have the endurance to chase your dreams.
Forty to 60 hours a week is the average time most people spend working. When you spend that much time doing something it will affect your life one way or another, especially if it makes you unhappy.
I remember that I used to roll my eyes when my mother would tell me “stop whining and go out and just do something,” whenever I would complain or whine about work. But the point my mother was trying to get across is that discovering what you’re passionate about in life, what matters to you and will make you happy is a trial-and-error process.
Remember, there are those who are doing what it takes to make their dreams a reality just as you're reading this. By sacrificing and doing the hard work upfront on yourself and on your dreams, you’ll reap the long-term benefits later. It's not going to be easy and it’ll take time but it will be worth it.
4. Your mindset is everything.
My mother died when my sister, brother and I were in our late 20s. Some would say that she was successful in raising us and at least she passed away when we were already grown and out on our own.
In the end, the last and perhaps the most important lesson of all that I’ve learned from my mother’s death and what I know now is that there is so much more to focus on in order to make dreams a reality, and the majority of it all begins with your mindset.
There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t miss and think of my mother. But I can smile because I have wonderful memories to pass along to my son and those important lessons I learned from her. So, what I am trying to say is that success, in the end is personal and no one can prescribe that for you.
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