Portrait Project


"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Cara McDonough

I lost my dad when I was nineteen. He suffered from an undiagnosed rare heart condition. Fittingly to those who knew him well, his heart was literally too big.

After he was gone, I couldn't believe I had missed the opportunity to say goodbye, to ask him for advice one last time. "What should I do now, dad?" I pleaded, looking up to the sky and begging him to answer me. And then it dawned on me.

When I was twelve I asked my dad what I should be when I grow up. Without hesitation, he looked up from his newspaper and said, "a good person." Unsatisfied, I pressed for specifics: Doctor? Lawyer? Commissioner of the NFL? But he refused to budge. "A good person," he said. "There's nothing more important in life than being a good person."

He then went on to prove it, hundreds of times.

What will I do with my life?

I will remember that the titles mother, daughter, wife, sister and friend are far more important than Director, VP, or CEO, and that time is more valuable when measured in birthdays and anniversaries, not quarters and year-ends.

I will live my life being open to loving others more than I love myself, remembering that status and power are means and not ends, important only because they enable me to improve the conditions of others.

I will measure success not by the commas in my salary, but by how carefree my children describe their childhood.

I will not let what I do for a living define who I am as a person.

And I will be good.

— Cara McDonough