Be true to yourself, and watch for the encouragement

I’m sure it’s happened to, you as it’s happened to me. Way back when, you dated someone, or maybe were even married to them. Then, for reasons which seemed pertinent at the time, you decided (or they decided) to part company.

And yet, in the back of your mind, there was always that nagging doubt. What if it was my fault, my issues? What if he/she was the one? What if I never meet anyone again?

But then it happens. Out of the blue, when you least expect it, you run into them. You take one look, then another, and hope that they don’t notice that look in your eyes. That look of, “Oh My God. Thank God I made the right decision!! Why was there ever any doubt??!”

I think you know what I’m talking about. They’ve changed, and not in ways you would have envisioned. The person standing before you bears a striking resemblance to the person you thought you were interested in, and yet you would not dream of being involved with this person today.

It happens all the time. And it’s not always with someone you were actually involved with. Sometimes it’s just someone who you thought you knew, or thought you understood; thought you respected, or maybe even thought you envied. That’s how it was for me with Ian Shrager.

For those who don’t know, Ian Shrager is a real estate developer, focusing mostly on boutique hotels, though he famously co-founded the nightclub Studio 54, back in the day. His establishments have been the epitome of cool, going back a long way. It made me feel that he was so cool, and, well, I thought that it must be cool to be Ian Shrager.

But now I’ve just read a brief interview in a real estate trade publication, The Real Deal (February 12, 2012, p. 106). There’s a part of me that feels let down. Like, wow, this guy who I kind of admired is really not who I thought he was. His whole mission just seems to be built on his competitive obsession to get more. Getting a younger ballerina wife than his first ballerina wife. Getting the girl that his future business partner was dating. Ungraciously suing Crate and Barrel over the name of their “Ian sofa,” inspired by him. Deciding to move into the value-oriented hotel world, not to bring good design to people who might appreciate it but otherwise not afford it; instead, because “it’ll have a bigger impact on the industry than the boutiques had.”

In the end, Mr. Shrager feels that after spending time in prison for tax evasion, he lost everything. “We had nothing. [But] we were able to come back and pick ourselves up off the floor and dust ourselves off.”

I have no doubt that he was slowed down by what happened to him. But he had nothing? I would like to stand him next to my friend in provincial Philippines, who though he lives in the typhoon region, can’t afford windows for his house. Or my friend in California who, locked up for much of his adult life for youthful indiscretions and, frankly, borderline mental instability, is now recently released and living as a 40-something year old with his poverty-level mother, with essentially no skills to carry him.

After reading this interview, I am happy to shed the envy I had felt for Mr. Shrager’s life. I’m happy for him, if he’s happy. But I’m quite happy that I’m not him, and he’s not me. The world works in mysterious ways, and the rewards for just being yourself are always out there. You just have to recognize them when you see them.

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