What is Success?

There’s a lot of thinking that happens during pregnancy. It’s nature’s timer. You’re going to have a child. You must consider parenting in every way. You have nine months. It’s much less SAW in my head and a bit more gentle-mother-nature-ey.

In any case, there are many months dedicated to thoughts about nurseries, breast feeding, kegel exercises, diapers, toys…and then come the more serious thoughts: how will I guide my son through life? What sort of values will I give him? How badly will I mess this up? And then, something I grapple with myself, how will I show him how to be a successful person? Um…how do I define success, again?

I don’t like this term. I don’t think it’s fair to put a singular spin on it. To many, and dare I be so bold as to say, to most, success means financial abundance; You’ve got plenty of dough. You’ve probably got yourself a large house, a busy job, a beautiful spouse, couple of kids, and lots of things to fill your time when you’re not at the office, according to the success measurement of this variety.

I, too, was a firm believer in this term of success as well. I had drooled over 14 bedroom mini-mansions in the neighboring town where I grew up, I admired the girls who wore Abercrombie & Fitch to school, and I was determined I’d make a truck load of money in my twenties.

I am not convinced of this lifestyle anymore. After spending time in a few different jobs, including corporate, small business, freelance, and teaching, I’ve come to realize that “success” is a crock of a vocab word. Nice things are nice, but being content with yourself on a regular basis is nicer.

I’ll explain. Perhaps more for myself than for you. I don’t believe we need to spend our lives behind a desk (figuratively speaking). I don’t believe in making hoards of money in order to buy more and more things. I don’t believe in never being satisfied with what you’ve already got; always climbing that ladder, always striving for more, always hungry, but never full.

Goals are of course what makes us work hard and accomplish great things as people, and I am not against this. I am against creating solely for the production of others, mainly, companies. Bring it in, people. What do you want to create for yourself?

I also feel that whatever creative endeavors we set out for ourselves also has a money-making scheme behind it, even if we don’t like to admit it. I am guilty of this, too. What if we created purely for pleasure? What if I wrote and painted and made pies because it made me happy, not because I expect something from it?

I interviewed for a job once at this really cool and trendy company; A place where Millenials would like to work, which is saying a lot (more on if I am a Millenial in a different post…). It was for a nebulous and vague job listing that I am still trying to figure out. I had asked each interviewer what I would be doing and everyone gave me the same answer: “Working in a team to accomplish our goals.”

What the hell does that mean? What is the actual job? This may sound archaic but what happened to solid, at least solid sounding positions that were clear in purpose. Writer, teacher, plumber, bus driver, lawyer…What am I accomplishing at this company?

The job made me feel small and big at the same time. Like, I was actually being considered for this weird, group position! But, like, I was being considered for this weird, group position?

I am grateful that I waited until my late twenties (hah, who am I kidding? I waited until the last possible drop of my twenties) to have a child. Not that I’m a sage or anything, but I certainly have a different perspective than when I was 23, or even 28. I’ve learned a thing or two ya know?

Success to me now means an entirely different thing. It’s more about the values I have and how I nurture them. Relationships are big on my list. How am I doing with my marriage? How are my parents doing? How is our interaction authentic? Are we taking care of each other?

Freedom, perhaps, has to be number one. I value this above everything. I must feel free to be myself or I can’t do anything. I have found this in a partner. My husband gives me the freedom to be who I am without exception. I crave jobs where I have freedom from the regular 9-5, 2 week vacation. I constantly need to be creating something. And when this doesn’t happen, I become withdrawn and behave unlike myself. S’no good.

So, I suppose, when my son is old enough to speak (and if he comes with questions for his sage parents), I will tell him that it is up to him to decide how he defines success. Would I describe myself as successful? In some ways, yes. And the word itself is fluid. I feel successful right now, with my new house, my husband, my growing belly, and this new blog project that allows me a voice in the void. Success is an ongoing term.