Your Success Won't be like Others'

It's been engraved in my head by numerous teachers, parents, self-help books and cheesy movies that working hard towards your goal will allow you to achieve it. This idea has led me to feelings of disappointment and failure. It has made me question, despite my efforts, why is it that when I work hard, success still hasn’t come?

For many, they put in the time and the effort and then success comes barreling their way. Whether it's luck or not, it leaves the rest of us with heavy expectations that our lives too will follow in this path. By taking a non-traditional and scattered path in life, I've come to realize that success arrives in many different forms, and has a different definition for everyone. I have been successful numerous times but didn't realize it, because you feel the effects of success when you define it for yourself.

Throughout many years of school, I have never been good at math. It is a skill that not only does not come naturally but even when I try my hardest I scrape just past the cut-off. When it finally came the time where I had to achieve good grades in order to get into university, my vision narrowed and panic set in. I had to get into a good business program at a reputable school. I had to prove to everyone that I'm smart and studious despite what my math tests showed on paper. I tried and tried but instead began failing my math class at my high school, so I paid exorbitant amounts of money for two private school math courses because somehow this had to work. Imagine this - a full regular day of high school, along with two online courses plus one-night school calculus class every week for 8 months. I was exhausted. I knew It would all pay off once I would receive that acceptance letter, it had to. I ended up doing very well in my math courses and finally felt proud and relieved. Except that acceptance letter never came, instead, in its place was a, “we regret to inform you” letter in my inbox. I was devastated; how could I have worked so hard and not found success? “This is not the way it’s supposed to work”, I had thought.

Admitting defeat, I ended up going into a general arts program with the plan of seeing where it took me from there. For the first time in my life, I had no direction but I was more confident in my abilities. So what if my dream program didn't want me? "Their loss", I adapted myself to think. With total freedom in my course load and a newly trained work ethic, I was able to take a variety of courses that intrigued me. I began to learn my strengths and weaknesses well, and we became great friends. I realized that I didn't even like business and only pursued it because that’s what I believed I should be doing. Instead, I followed my passions for writing and declared a major in English. From here, it didn’t seem like treacherous work because I was doing things I enjoyed and was truly good at.

What I didn’t realize before was that success is not linear or static, it comes and goes when you don't expect it. Success is not as transparent as it’s made out to be. Success is a cocktail of hard work, dedication, passion, perseverance and so much more than just an "A" on your math test. People have a common misconception that you have to push yourself towards "success" as hard as you can, but you first have to know what that is for you personally. I always used to compare my life to the typical and traditional paths that people tended to take in their lives, but I was doing it all wrong. My success came when I started doing things that I loved while meeting amazing people in my program and feeling truly happy instead of pushing myself towards something that I thought would bring me success. I reflected on where I was and how I got there and realized that I was exactly where I wanted and needed to be. I always knew that I wanted to pursue my passions deep down, but I was too afraid of not being good enough. Instead, I tried to be successful in the ways that I thought most people were, but it was all a façade. I won't be graduating with a business degree, but it would not have brought me happiness and for me, that is not success.

Sometimes you have to feel confused, lost or discouraged, in order to understand what you truly want. Your personal success won't be like your parents', your friends', Elon Musk's or Oprah Winfrey's because your success is completely your own and it will become impossible to attain if it's modeled to look the same as everyone else's.