The Best Is Yet to Come

I once had a friend who was so into instant gratification that in a restaurant, she sometimes ordered dessert first, so that she could fully enjoy it before she was full.
03/01/2012 01:47 pm ET Updated May 01, 2012

I once had a friend who was so into instant gratification that in a restaurant, she sometimes ordered dessert first, so that she could fully enjoy it before she was full.

Sometimes I wonder if those who achieve their heart's desire early and easily in life, before the meat and potatoes of the main course are digested (or give them indigestion) deeply savor the flavor of fulfillment, especially when major challenges follow.

When I came of age there wasn't much of an option about careers vs. traditional marriage and family -- almost every girl fantasized about her dream guy and spent hours practicing writing his last name, with hers before it, in her Scholastic lined notebook, surrounded by hearts and flowers. Today she may very well opt to write her own name with a professional title, or a bunch of letters as a suffix.

I allowed my Prince Charming to get away when I left my little home town for the Big Apple. When it became clear that success in the city was more alluring than the PTA, he simply married someone else. Well, Irene, what did you expect? Even in the glamorous metropolis, old programming dies hard.

At the beginning of my design career, in my early 20s, the rarest of opportunities came knocking. A client who manufactured upscale men's silk accessories saw a marketing opportunity in me. He sent me to the best photographer in N.Y., had labels woven that announced "Designed by Irene" -- incredibly, he didn't even make a pass, though I was pretty cute!

I was a new mother with no one to turn to and no place to go when my husband and his family demanded that I refuse what might have been a brilliant future. WOUDA COULDA SHOUDA. With zero resources available, I reluctantly acquiesced. Then along came Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein, et. al. -- the franchise industry flourished -- the rest is history.

According to Joseph Campbell, mythologist, lecturer and author of The Hero's Journey, the protagonist as a youth, upon learning of a wider, problem-ridden world, leaves his affluent home in search of the holy grail of enlightenment. He encounters terrors, slays dragons and survives impossible tests before his ordeal is over. Only then, his fears calm, grail in hand, does he return to his people as a teacher.

The day I left High Point, N.C. for NYC, my hero's journey began. Now we will switch myths to consider another story.

Persephone, pampered maiden of mythological Greece, was abducted by Pluto, god of the underworld, to reign as his bride in Hades, his wintry kingdom of darkness. Each spring she was permitted to return to Olympus for six months to visit her heart-broken mother Demeter, goddess of the grain, returning to her husband after the harvest for the remainder of the year. In her role as queen of the underworld, a metaphor for the subconscious mind, Persephone grew in understanding, eventually acquiring the mantle of "wise woman" in her mature years.

It's really the same story, whether one conquers demons, dragons or darkness. Only after the acquisition of hard-earned authority is one qualified to act as guide through the unknown.

Who knew my classroom would be cyberspace?

Who knows who my students will be?

My lesson plan is to share this journey of life with others, offering a few simple (I didn't say easy) guidelines. Only now can my course in the role of wise woman (or hero as teacher) begin.

Any questions... Feel free to ask.

For more by Irene Tanner, click here.

For more on wisdom, click here.