Sometimes it’s hard to measure how well you have done in life. You might define success in terms of your career, money in the bank, your stocks or the size of your home. Got a second home? Well you may not rate yourself as very successful unless that second home is in France or Spain rather than Kerry or Donegal.
There were times in my life when I wondered if I hadn’t failed. Certainly that was true as I tried to come to terms with my facial disfigurement and be more positive about life in general, not letting setbacks in life get me down.
And setbacks there were aplenty. When you constantly put yourself down, or allow others to get under your skin by criticising you, it’s hard to see how well you are doing in life.
I remember being thrilled when I was appointed assistant chief sub editor in the Cork Examiner and then allowing my own feelings of inadequacy dog me for years. The same happened when I was eventually named chief sub editor. I listened to the voices in my head that told me that maybe I wasn’t good enough to do the job, that there were others in the Editorial Department who could do a better job.
When you allow yourself to be consumed by negativity then chances are you’ll trip up. Every night I had to make many decisions, from allocating work, to approving headlines, helping select stories for pages and whether they should be accompanied by photos, all the time being mindful that deadline was approaching. The worst part was learning to adapt when breaking news stories meant you had to tear up pages and start again. Inevitably in those days you’d make mistakes, in which case you’d hope they weren’t too big, or that others wouldn’t notice.
I used to measure success by my job title, so that when I applied for and was interviewed for the posts of deputy editor and eventually editor and didn’t get them I thought I had failed again. My career path was definitely over. I dwelled on those setbacks for too long, not seeing the bigger picture in my life.
You see, I was married to a quite extraordinary woman, Trish. Through good times and bad she was there. She never saw me as a failure and was always very supportive. She knew I was still struggling to come to terms with issues related to my facial disfigurement too, but was always by my side. My marriage was a huge success but I didn’t appreciate for a long time that this was a lot more important than career advancement, even though marriage had always been one of my goals.
When Daire and Sarah Jane came along we encouraged them to live their dreams, picked them up when they ran into setbacks, told them we loved them and would always believe in them. And we did. As time went on we could see their dreams and aspirations were a lot more exciting and scary than we expected, but we still encouraged them to go for it. When Sarah Jane announced she wanted to be a lawyer you could have knocked us down with a feather. A lawyer? Where did that come from? Now she’s working for a top law firm and based in Hong Kong, engaged and loving life. Good for her.
So as I look back at my almost 64 years now I know that while I have had some failures – big and small – I’m a really lucky guy to have such a terrific family. Now that’s success by any yardstick.