Camille is a twenty-eight-year-old Stanford graduate and single mother living in Hawaii. She knows all too well the pressure to do well in school, be successful, and live up to other people’s expectations. Ever since college she’s fought an internal battle between what makes her happy and what others expect.
Growing up in a small Japanese community and being raised by parents who wanted more for their children than they had for themselves, educational success was a top priority. Children were groomed to become doctors or lawyers. Parents sacrificed to send their kids to the best schools. As Camille puts it, she was expected to go off to college and come back and do something great. But after attending Stanford, her definition of “something great” didn’t align with that of her parents.
Stanford proved to be an eye-opening experience.
She was shocked by the racial and social stratification she saw, the freeway dividing the rich and the poor, and the focus on the haves and have-nots. It all rubbed Camille the wrong way. She came away from the experience knowing that success for her was not what it had been laid out to be. She had no desire to live in a million-dollar home.
The more she tried living up to the expectations placed on her, the unhappier she became.
Her struggle between pleasing herself and pleasing others eventually led to depression, therapy, and medication. She says it’s especially hard to admit you’re struggling with mental health issues when others view you as successful (something people tend to do when you’re a Stanford graduate). But she’s glad she was willing to seek help. She fears she’s not alone. At Stanford she frequently saw other students not being given the chance to value themselves simply for themselves.
What makes Camille happy today is a simple life.
She works in what she describes as the painfully underpaid profession of social work and loves it. She defines success as reaching her full potential intellectually and doing work that makes a difference.
Five years ago she gave birth to a son, which she describes as the happiest thing that’s ever happened to her. Becoming a mom caused her to re-evaluate her life.
Today she makes only a small connection between money and success.
She doesn’t want or need much, just enough money to support her family and maybe go shopping every once in a while. She admits it’s not always easy following her heart. The pressures from outside are always there. But with the help of friends and others who support her, she is persevering.
Excerpted from Breaking the Spell: The Truth About Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness.