Throughout my life I have had many different understandings of what success should look like. I have been able to see success through the lens of how other people achieve things, but never really see that in myself.
When I was a teenager, I thought success was connected to fame. I wanted to sing and dance on Broadway and I thought that if I could just get on any stage, in any role, I would be successful. I did not have to be the lead, just in the show. Success was something that would only come with practice and sweat. Working my ass off was the only way to get there and I felt somewhat lazy when I started putting on weight and trailing off on my practice regimen. Through my college career my focus shifted away from Broadway shows and on to Opera (not by my personal choice, but by the choice of my voice professor who would have “none of that belting in my rehearsal space!”) This shift made me start to see success as something else entirely. Something less tangible. I did not want to be a Diva, so I scraped the whole performance thing and moved on.
After graduating with my music degree my goal was to move out on my own. Success, it seemed, was living in my own apartment and working a full time job that could afford me the ability to go out to eat and still pay the bills. This definition of success seems to have been the one that has stuck with me the longest as I still have this idea in my head that I need to be able to consistently support myself, and anyone else that lives with me, with the basic necessities. This is a much lower bar compared to my teenage idea of success, but it works.
Next month I will be 40 years old, as you already know since I like to mention it often. With entry into this new decade I feel that I am long overdue for a refresh of my idea of success. Armed with 2 bachelors degree, in music and sociology, and a pending masters degree in library science, I am ready to look toward a future that I had not imagined when I was in my 20’s. Writing has always been something I love to do and something that often gets sidelined for whatever other task is necessary in the moment. The only time I really was able to concentrate on writing was when I was doing research in my Sociology program. Being able to observe, read, research, and write was something I loved doing and this is what I believe success looks like for my future. Whether that is within the walls of a library at an academic institution or in a small writing group at the local literary organization, I need to find a place to be able to do these 4 mentioned things and I will feel successful. If I can get paid to do them as well, that will be a bonus.
The lesson learned from this reassessment of success is that it does not have to be tied up with jobs or money. It can be personal success. Setting goals and achieving them. Doing things that make me happy and still being able to pay the bills. Living somewhere that I have only ever dreamed of living and being able to make it. These are the things that truly make up my new definition of success. The writer and I are moving toward it now in a new and different way and within the next 5 to 10 years I can see it happening. As long as we both work hard and push ourselves to new levels, we will be successful in a way that makes us content and that is the best definition of success anyone can hope for.
What is your idea of success? Share with me in the comments!