Read an Excerpt
“I Haven’t Done That, Yet.”
As I lined up at the front of the stage with nine other state representatives on the final program night in Mobile, Alabama, I was incredulous of the results that would be read only minutes later. My body ached from the fitness routine that we had performed an hour earlier, my heart pounded so hard I was sure it was audible to the audience, and standing up straight in those high-heeled shoes became an increasingly difficult task. Suddenly, two finalists were announced— two of my close friends! As my mind wrapped around my joy for them, a buzzing silence filled the room. The announcement of the winner was about to come. The emcee declared, “From Idaho, Madison Leonard!” and from that moment on, my life has been changed.
The Road to Success
It seems to me that the meaning of success has changed since I was a senior in high school. If you look at page 159 of my high school yearbook, you will find a picture of me under the heading, “Most Likely to Succeed.” As I recall, in 1971 the common definition of success was having a powerful job, eventually landing “the corner office,” having a lifetime of secure earnings, and maintaining the respect and admiration of one’s peers. If one accepts that definition of success, my high school classmates who voted me to receive this title were not in error in their prediction. By all outward appearances, my life has been a successful one. I won the scholastic achievement award at the 1971 America’s Junior Miss scholarship program. With the scholarship money, I was able to afford the tuition at Stanford University, where I graduated early in 1975. I went directly to medical school at Case Western Reserve University, where I graduated in 1980. After serving a commission in the Indian Health Service, I went on to achieve board certification in Family Medicine and, subsequently, a certificate of added qualifications in Geriatrics. For the past 15 years, I have been an associate professor of Family Medicine and the director of a student health center. I have played an important role in the lives of my patients. I have enjoyed a rewarding family life and have raised two sons who are now independent young adults. I have kept myself relatively healthy through good food and regular exercise. I have nurtured my spiritual growth through introspection, exploration, study, and meditation. My retirement nest egg continues to look promising. I believe I fit the 1971definition of “success.” Yet, I don’t feel at all ready to pat myself on the back for a job well done. I choose instead to dwell on my challenges in life, continually trying to improve upon that “most likely to succeed” woman of 1971. So, then, what truly is the meaning of this elusive concept we call “success,” and why don’t I feel like I’m there, yet?