What does success really mean? In school, we’re told it means good grades. When it comes to your career, we’re told it means finding a job that pays well, comes with benefits, and a retirement plan. With family, we’re told it means finding a heterosexual life partner and making babies, sending them to college. Perhaps success isn’t any of that. Perhaps success is different for every person.
The other day, my brother was distressed, telling me that he felt he wasn’t successful because he hadn’t found a career path he was interested in, that he thought he was taking all of these different college classes for nothing. He didn’t have a job to keep him occupied, so he viewed that as another form of being unsuccessful. He was bored, watching many of his friends go off to a four-year college following career paths and seeming much happier than he was.
Success isn’t comparing yourself to other people, even if they are doing what you would like to do. Before graduating college, I looked at my colleagues: friends who immediately were offered full-time jobs, friends who were accepted to grad school, joined the Peace Corps, got engaged or married. Where did I fit? What were my plans?
I moved across the country and worked freelance, trying to work in creative fields, where I felt I belonged. Freelancing gives you a bunch of free time in between jobs to do other things like volunteer, hike, or sit around and read. I decided to spend my free time writing a novel, something I had always wanted to do. In writing this novel, I created the world that I hadn’t realized I missed the most. The characters I created lived a similar life to my former life as a ski instructor. It made me miss the past, my friends, how happy and loving we all were. It made me want to go back and ski every day like I used to.
Success isn’t seeming like you’re happy. Success is creating a life for yourself in which you are actually happy. This is different for everyone. Some people want to spend the majority of their time outside riding waves on the coast of Hawaii. Some people want to fight for justice as a lawyer. Some people want families and some people would rather be alone. Some people want to give birth to children, others want to adopt, and others don’t want children at all. Some people want to train falcons, fix motorcycles, run a marathon, win the lottery, write a novel, or track their family history. We live in a world of opportunity where we can choose to do what makes us happy. There is no cookie-cutter life, no “American Dream,” no white picket fence, and we should stop pretending that a stable job in suburbia is what everyone wants.
It makes me sad to see a bunch of people unsatisfied with their lives whilst following a path that’s wrong for them. Some people were not meant to go to college. Some people were not meant to raise a family. Plenty of people don’t want a 9-5, Monday-Friday job and plenty of people do want one.
Let’s celebrate people who take different paths, paths that give them ultimate happiness. If you want to ride a bike across the country, go do it. If you want to adopt a child even though you’re not in a relationship with anyone, do it. If you want to learn how to play piano or start a band or bungee jump off Australian bridges, please go out and do it. Life is too short to do what you think other people want you to do with your life. However, if you’re confused and you’re not sure where to go from here, take time to reflect. Don’t be afraid to try new things and live your life to the fullest. If you are lonely, don’t be afraid to seek companionship. If you are going through a difficult time, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are a person in this world, you are already incredible and you deserve to live the life that makes you happiest.
Have you recently made an enormous life change? Have you ever felt lost, confused, or unsatisfied with your life? Comment with your experiences below.