“The prosperous achievement of something attempted; the attainment of an object according to one’s desire: now often with particular reference to the attainment of wealth or position.” –The Oxford English Dictionary, the most basic book definition in the world. What does this really mean, though? “Prosperous achievement?” “Attainment of wealth or position?” Of course, we all want money, but everyone knows money doesn’t equal happiness. Success should encompass passion and joy too, shouldn’t it?
When I close my eyes and picture myself as a successful woman years from now, I don’t think about the job that I want. My daydreams don’t revolve around work and money. They revolve around where I want to live, how many dogs I want, how many times a week I’ll be able to call home and check in on my family. There is no denying that having money is important, but my personal success won’t revolve around my ability to pay bills.
I guess, to me, success is finding happiness and contentment in all aspects of one’s life. For me, success is long-term. Success is looking back at something, no matter how near or far in the past, and being proud of yourself. Remembering that you were happy, and still feeling the same satisfaction whenever the thought enters your mind.
If you were to ask my dad, he would say that success can be based on the people you end up surrounded by and the respect you’ve earned from them. My mom says that success is dependent on your personal happiness, with a big emphasis on meeting your own personal expectations while being able to provide for yourself and your basic necessities. My own parents, who worked together raising me and having similar expectations, have different focuses in their personal definitions of success. It feels like everyone who brings up the concept of success has a different idea of what it should be, making it something that can seem impossible to lockdown.
It can be hard to define your own success with so many voices in your ear. Dads, moms, siblings, grandparents and extended family you don’t even remember, roommates, roommates’ parents (that was a fun one), teachers, counselors, the list can go on and on. It does. The questions of “what do you want to do?” and “what will you do with that?” and the occasional offhanded “oh, you might want to do this instead, it’s so hard to be successful with that” will never end, and they seem to come from every direction you turn. (There was once when I met an acquaintance of my mom’s, and within ten minutes of meeting her for the first time she was telling me how I should add a business minor to my English major because I won’t get anywhere with English. I mean, really?)
It’s overwhelming and scary, and it used to be the question I dreaded most when I’d be on my way to a gathering of any sort. Especially being in college, people seem to only ask about your major and your life plan, and it’s hard. It’s scary. And that’s okay. Who cares if your great aunt doesn’t like your career path? Your career doesn’t define you. The amount of money you make doesn’t define you, not now, not ever. Think about what will make you happy. Think about what you want, because in the end, that’s all that matters. You define your own success, and you’re already on your way to it, whatever it may be.