My reaction got me thinking. In my stunted grad school attempt, I had to record myself answering interview questions. Daniel was my interviewer. He asked me what “success” meant to me.
I have always known to say that success is not achievable by income or status, and it turns out I still believe those things are true. But we have debt, for a multitude of reasons we don’t own a home anymore, and this past year we’ve been learning to live on one income. I have chosen to forgo what was turning out to be a lucrative career to be home with my babies while I still can.
When I became a working mother, I sometimes thought immediate success would be having a choice to make about whether to stay home. Other times I thought success meant being there for every milestone. Now that I’m home, I see it’s more complicated. I wonder if my decision—while the right one for us at this time—means I will not ever know career success.
And then there’s the issue of passion. I envy teachers, doctors, fire fighters, even politicians; I envy people who have always known what they wanted to be. Who have the kind of jobs little kids say they want when they grow up. For many of them, making a living is an extension of their passion. How very convenient, I think. I remember, in the aforementioned grad school attempt, sitting beside people who worked at National Geographic or the Smithsonian, people who found fulfillment in their work. And while I have always tried to make the most of whatever situation I’m in, I have not yet found creative fulfillment in a job I’ve had. Since I was a second grader, I said I wanted to be a writer. So now I write here, for you, for me, for anonymous passersby, but it’s without the expectation that it will ever line my pockets.
So, then what success? I wrote this in a few moments of blissful silence while my beautiful blonde spitfires slept upstairs. That day I made breakfast and lunch, put two children in timeout a combined total of five times, bought groceries, and did laundry. Later we headed to the library, too close to dinner, and Daniel met us out to eat. Every day doesn’t look like this day. And, on the surface, to me, it doesn’t look “successful.”
But, at least for today, my children and family are healthy. I’m married to a man I still adore and who really is my best friend. We have the things we really need. I have creative outlets, albeit not income generating ones, and friends that love me, albeit not ones I can hug very frequently.
I still actively seek peace. I have dreams I’m not sure I’ll ever realize.
But I don’t take enough time to be thankful for all that I already have.
The problem is that I forget, and I think many of us do. I compare the galleries of nights out, smiling children and best meals with my dark room of unfolded laundry, temper tantrums, and not yet developed potential. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop posting highlights—they are what make all the rest of life worth it—but I’m going to try to remember that that’s what everyone else is doing too.
Why not step away from the social media and comparisons with me. What does success really look like? And are you certain you haven’t found it yet?
We really ought to get out of our own way.