She was broke, afraid and losing hope. How did she stumble on the secret of lasting success?
When I was in my early 30s, I was writing all the time, but for some reason, none of my stuff was selling. There are periods in the life of an artist when you go through growing phases, and in order to do that, you need to be able to fail. You have to sit back, regroup, and rethink. I didn't know it then, but I was going through one of those phases.
Unfortunately, it was accompanied by being broke. I'd go to the supermarket with two dollars and cry in the aisles, "I don't even have enough money for dinner! I ate a lot of soup. I was living in an apartment that cost $300 a month, and I got kicked out because I couldn't afford it. I was constantly worrying, Oh my God. What am I going to do with my life?" It was frightening, and I was alone. I didn't have a husband. I didn't have a boyfriend. I had nobody to rely on, I realized, except for myself. I knew I was going to have to pull myself out of it.
So I got a freelance job writing profiles for The New York Observer. I worked hard on those stories, but I was beginning to think that my big break might never happen. A few months later, though, the editor offered me my own column, "Sex and the City." I felt on top of the world; I finally had an opportunity.
One of the things I learned through writing the column is that so much of what society tells us—about women and men, what our roles are, and what they're supposed to be—just isn't true. We still tell women, Relationships are really important—you have to find a man. But there are certain things a relationship cannot give you. It can't give you self-esteem, and won't necessarily bring you happiness. It might give you some sense of accomplishment temporarily, but not in the long term. We don't tell women enough that one of the most important things to strive for in life is some kind of personal and professional achievement. Not as a man or a woman—but as a person. Sometimes it's important to be a person first and a gender second.
When you experience some sort of I just kicked the field goal that won the game! moment, you can go into relationships without being needy or looking for self-esteem. We, as women, need to get those things for ourselves.
From the July 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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