I recently attended a conference at which the representative of the primary sponsoring company began his speech sharing that he had just found out his wife had let their teenage daughter drive their SUV at night to the train station, in an unsafe area, to pick up a friend. His wife had been busy watching one of her favorite television programs and didn’t want to be bothered. The anecdote wasn’t meant to be cute or convey a lesson; he just had to share his disbelief with someone, and the crowd of over one hundred conference goers was the first group of someones he had come across since speaking with his wife.
He looked like a modern-day Cary Grant and he had an excellent job with a well-known bank. It was easy to conjure up stereotypes of the beautiful, manicured wife he’d met in college at a Tri Delta party who now spent her time shopping and getting hot stone massages. An image that no doubt played well at the company Christmas party, but did not successfully translate into a fulfilling life. She was not of the world; working full-time had broadened his landscape and he could no longer relate to the confined dimensions of her world.
What was he to do? What was she to do? They were both playing their defined roles, the ones that society offered up as approved options, the ones they had accepted without question until life had become more complicated. And now here he was, relating his frustration to strangers who sat silently, uncomfortable, with nothing to say in return.
He transitioned into his approved topic, and when he was done, a handler escorted him off the stage to ensure he made his flight. He would go back to his life and his wife and possibly wonder how following a societally approved option could have gone so wrong.
Fulfillment is shaped by our questions, not just the answers.