‘What is success?’
The daily writing page I’m signed up on which I try to write daily for, asked.
Plain and simple. No messing about here. Just what is success. This is something that I think constantly on.
Is success having a fantastic career that provides money, a home, a car, those things which we are all indoctrinated to believe we want?
Is it something more esoteric like validation and acclaim from your peers and contemporaries?
What is this thing that some of us have, yet others [including myself] never seem to manifest?
In my life, I feel as though the concept of ‘success’ is something that is forever slipping through my fingers, unobtainable and elusive. Something so close yet so difficult to grasp.
I have always viewed success as being something linked with prosperity. As though they naturally go hand in hand. A relationship that is symbiotic and dependent upon one another. Success begets prosperity, as well as the other way round. Or does it? Can one prosper without success? Without money?
These days, it’s difficult for me to feel that I have success in my life. To convince myself. Here I am, jobless and in a new country. Away from friends, family, all those whom I love and miss. Not to mention that everything is done differently. I have to adapt and relearn life as it were. Finding and making new friends and connections, which is usually a challenge in itself for me has become even more so the case. Readjusting and thriving has been my top priority. And its been a turbulent fucker, let me tell you.
I know that many others out there may classify the concept and terminology of ‘success’ in a different subset of ideals; swap out monetary gain and career advancement for headspace self-helpy concepts of wellness, mental health and relationships.
Is it healthy, to re-categorise the idea of success as being not necessarily prosperity and attainment of status and wealth, but to a place of your immediate and close life: how well you manage a relationship, how well your life is with your loved ones, friends, coworker etc?
A part of me feels that this is somewhat naive.
Perhaps I’ve become more jaded in life. Is it because I’ve never experienced what my ideal of success is, being money/career/prosperity?
The tenets of this rather new-agey paradigm of success to me right now unfortunately has the smack of anathema to me. As though this line of thought is simply a salve to sooth a troubled mind like mine who constantly thinks on this very subject. Is it a cop-out to think this, or is it somewhat constructive and good for the soul?
I’m of two minds about this.
One the one side, success shouldn’t be so simply aligned and synonymously linked with the idea of prosperity and monetary gain and status. It should feel more well-rounded. A mother or father who stays home raising a child who would grow to become a good, kind-hearted person should be regarded as a ‘success.’ Being a stay at home parent is not an easy task. I can only imagine the challenges and difficulty that lay with this work.
Working and improving your mental health is also something that I see as a measure of ‘success.’ This has become such an important part of many of our lives. My own included. With the onrush and rise of the whole idea of wellness culture especially so in the last few years.
At times when I think of this, I recall Kate Winslet’s character in Titanic [don’t hate on me for referencing Titanic please], after she survives the ship and moves on with her life. The camera pans across frames of her doing all sort of stuff. Why she thought to bring them on a research vessel not withstanding, it showed her getting up to all sorts of rad stuff: horseriding, posing with a cool plane, at a beach with friends and looking hot in an old timey Hollywood portrait.
Clearly it was all a device to display how full her life was, and how her not choosing to go with the rich arsehole, she built this life that was clearly fulfilling on her own.
What would those pictures have looked like had she choose to go with Mr Punchable Face’s character, who may have given her a life of luxury and ease, yet detested and belittled her?
I sometimes wonder how many people out there who have the money, the careers and status might look at someone like me who has none of this, yet wish for a relationship like mine, for instance.
On the other side, I feel that it can be naive to think on success in such a simplistic manner. I feel as though this thread above is what I’ve been told by others, that career and money is not the end point of what we traditionally regard as success.
The unfortunate thing is, alas, we don’t live in a society that seems to view ones’ life worth in terms of success as how well a relationship goes, how good a parent one is, or how well one is doing with their mental health.
Capitalism sure does have its fucked up features.
I could be the perennial Red leftie that I was and start a spiel on how an economic system ie Capitalism destroys people’s very lives and wellbeing, and places ones worth solely on their monetary intake, but I’m not going to do that today.
The days of my university demonstrations, ardent leftie essays espousing the virtues of Socialism in the modern world and the need for it, are long gone. Not to say I have given up. I still dearly believe in left-wing politics. More the acknowledgement that the system we live and work and breathe in is not going to go away, at least not for a very long time.
This side of me thinks that it is rather simplistic and unworldly to believe that success can be more than money and status. Unfortunately, it is something that those of us that do not have, tell ourselves in order to feel better about our lives.
I sincerely do want the career, the recognition, and yes, the money. Not as a means in itself but rather so I can have a great life with my husband and not worry.
And that’s my issue with success. The pain, the worrying, the pressure that maybe I put on myself far too much. The expectations of my parents as a kid and adolescent, and their subsequent disappointment in me not reaching my potential. Am I exerting this pressure on myself? Is this more in my head than out there in society?
We are truly a generation weaned on the belief that we could do anything we wanted. Yet the hard truth is, indelibly, we cannot. Success is something that yes is attainable, but not perhaps, for each and every one of us.
What then, is success for you?