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Lions Roar : January 2010
64 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 and interesting, despite worries of “Am i going to make a living doing what i want to do?” and “is someone going to marry me?” She says she tries to harness feelings of anxiety as much as pos- sible, making fear productive by turning it into positive energy. “nothing is guaranteed, but life should be joyful, dynamic, ex- citing,” says Jill. “i do know that if i didn’t give into certain doubts and hesitations, i would have the world at my fingertips.” Jill explains that she has taken certain vows within Vajrayana Buddhism and that over the summer she attended a retreat with her teacher, Sakyong Mipham. without his blessing, she says, she could not fully receive her practice, which consists of reciting liturgies and using visualizations and mantras. “i am on a path and without him i would be very lost and confused,” Jill says matter-of-factly of her teacher. “what are you looking for?” i ask. “Enlightenment,” Jill says in all seriousness, yet the notion also causes her to erupt in laughter. i want to tell her that she’s had it within her all along. Her Buddha-like laughter was always contagious. Vanessa: The Businesswoman “Vanessa was always very driven, so does it surprise me that she went to Harvard Business School?” Lizzi sighs, “not at all!” “i think about her on the basketball court,” adds Elizabeth, evoking a mental image of Vanessa with her lusciously thick, shiny brown hair and her ath- letic build, ferociously defending her turf. Vanessa, always stu- dious, smart, and an ex- pert at keeping her cool with a hectic schedule of ballet, violin, and church, is now a principal of the parthenon Group, a cor- porate consulting firm, and the only one of the five of us who is married and following a seemingly conventional path. “part of me is very driven and focused on somewhat super- ficial things—performing well at work, buying a house, making enough money to be able to do all of the things i want to do,” admits Vanessa. “As i’ve grown older, though, i’ve become more focused on just enjoying the day-to-day pieces of my life that mean so much to me.” Vanessa met “the love of her life,” her husband, Spike, at Stan- ford, where they were both undergraduates. After living for the last three years in Boston, where Vanessa earned her MBA at Harvard and Spike his law degree, they just bought a condo in San Francisco and are talking about having kids. Vanessa and i recently got the boys together—her Spike and Tom, my boyfriend of six years, also a writer, with whom i live in Manhattan. when Vanessa tells me she eventually wants to own her own business, i think back to Cherry Blossom Beauty Supplies, a ven- ture of ours in middle school, inspired by an article in one of her dad’s Fortune or Forbes magazines about the woman who created The Body Shop. Developing our early entrepreneurial skills, we repackaged cheap shampoo bought at woolworth’s in little hotel bottles tied with ribbon, which we sold to our mothers’ friends. And speaking of beauty treatments, Vanessa emails me to say, “My family still makes fun of me for wrapping you in Saran wrap and trying to carry you down our back porch!” Thinking about her friendships, Vanessa observes, “while i tend to think that our nation and world as a whole is becoming more and more secular, i see many of my friends turning to spirituality, which i think is a reflection of people’s need to find a purpose in life and some kind of structure. As we get older and think more about confronting our own mortality, there is the feeling of wanting to make the right choices—choices that we can look back on in old age and feel good about.” The most difficult part is to know what those choices should be. “i think the difficulty increases as we have more freedom in terms of what is acceptable, appropriate, right, and this freedom increases every day,” Vanessa says. “in the ’50s, it was as- sumed that women would get married and raise a family. now that it has become acceptable for women to have their own careers and not get married, it can be hard for women to know what the right path is.” Elizabeth: The Activist For years, the person i was closest to in our group was Elizabeth, whom i met in the reading corner on my first day of kindergarten. our families lived in the same building and we played together al- most every day after school, stuck in my dollhouse like two big Alices, or riding up and down in the elevator, trailing dress-up clothes. shiny brown hair and her ath- and following a seemingly whole is becoming more and more secular, i see many of my friends turning to spirituality, which i think is a reflection of people’s need to find a purpose in life and some kind of structure. As we get older and think more about confronting our own mortality, there is the feeling of wanting to make the right choices—choices that we can every day,” Vanessa says. “in the ’50s, it was as- “The difficulty increases as we have more freedom,” says Vanessa. “now that it is acceptable for women to have their own careers and not get married, it can be hard to know what the right path is.” Vanessa