This past summer a friend and I were at lunch. She expressed to me her displeasure at her current juncture in life, describing it as “unsuccessful”. The word “unsuccessful” made me pause.
Her measure of success was not based on the work she does day in and day out for her community, nor her past work across the country where she was thousands of miles from home. Her measure was on money, because that is, after all, the most integral measurement by which we, as a society, define success.
I cringed as she explained her position. I let her speak and then I let loose on her theory. I will explain it here, for you.
Though money is certainly an indicator of your financial success, in no way is “success” solely a financial feat. Emotional, physical and personal successes are defined in so many other ways. Happiness is not dependent on money, although it can alleviate stress, I admittedly have less in my bank account than my 19 month old, and I am pretty darn happy. When others choose to define us versus others as successful or not based on our incomes, they refuse to acknowledge we are not a wallet, but a person. An individual with pursuits and dreams which push the boundaries of our wallets. When an individual chooses to fear what life would be like with less, it is their choice to cheapen themselves by binding their identity to their bank account. Pretty things are just that, pretty.
What holds us together as individuals and more-so as families are all the moments in between. I’m not denying the terror of choosing between two paper products in line at the super market. It’s scary to only be able to purchase 1/2 a gallon of milk and not a whole. Sure you need new jeans, but so does your child- and Lord knows you would never let them go without. But there are times where we are so prosperous that we have forgotten to remember.
The moments your spouse is staring at you from across the room and you don’t even know. The time your child wrapped themselves up in you and knew you could have stayed there forever (read THIS to remember that feeling). When you got a promotion or a raise. When you nailed that presentation- who cares if it was your 3rd grade diorama. You did it. You were successful. Don’t let someone else define you- the person who signs your check isn’t your creator. They do not control your path. They do not have the power to staunch your celebration of life.
The measure of success is the culmination of your life. It does not happen when you’re a 30 year old millionaire, or a 100 year old veteran. Success is determined each morning, when you decide to get up and go. It’s a four year old who can tie their shoe. It’s a 23 year old walking at graduation. It’s a 34 year old, a 19 year old, a 94 year old making someone else smile.
But if someone else’s story is too hard to grasp try this: I have less financial stability than my Mom did at my age… I also have a child, where she did not, yet. My parents own a house with a “great room”… I didn’t even know there was such a thing until after the renovation. My sister lives in a house that would use my own as a shed. My one brother lives at home, the other I call my struggling (food) artist, lives in western PA in an apartment he pays much of his salary to live in. We are all successful, and here’s why. My parents (mom and step-father) have both had marriages end in tragedy. They found each other and have created a beautiful life over the past 10 years. My step-dad is really taking to late fatherhood and he’s great with the grandbabes. My Mom is still saving lives and keeping the level of psychosis to a minimum, with her in-home private practice (psychologist). My sister is the VP of one of the largest healthcare advertisers in the world and her husband is in the aerospace business (super insanely fancy!). They have a handsome son, Mark, and another on the way. They have had their individual struggles, and both have persevered. They live in a beautiful home (I’ve only been on a virtual tour) in Florida, and though we don’t talk much, I can’t wait to visit! My at-home brother has a beautiful relationship with his high school girlfriend, is working on his degree and healing a long-time injury after having experimental surgery! And the other brother is cooking up a storm after completing his associates and ready to return to school to obtain his bachelors after the winter. He lives on his own, complains about how small the washing machines are in his building and makes the 5 hour trek home for the holidays with a trunk full of what doesn’t fit in said machines- I remember doing this, myself. And me? I’m married to a computer and musical magician. We have a beautiful baby girl and a crazy pup. Sometimes we have a harder time than others, but we have family and friends and each other. We have love and communication. What else makes a successful life?
How do you define your success?