Success? Whose Definition?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the direction my life has taken. I think this was brought on by a post from one of my friends from a forum about how she feels she is ‘behind’ other people in her life.  I was happy to read that…not happy that she was feeling badly about herself, but happy that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

For as long as I can remember, I have defined myself by my intelligence.  I held strong educational and career goals. I thought that that was all I had going for me, since I wasn’t popular or beautiful and didn’t seem to know how to talk to people. I thought that was how other people defined me too.

I got sucked into Facebook a few months ago. I went there to look at a link a friend sent me, and saw how many people there were from high school and college. I know a lot of people say that they don’t want anything to do with people from high school because they weren’t friends with those people back then and/or don’t want to remember anything from that time. I was pretty miserable at one point too, but I am not the same person I was back then and wanted to see if others were different too. We all had expectations of each other or ideas of how we would turn out…you know, Most Likely to Succeed, Most Likely to be Millionaire, Most Likely to be a Skanky Reality Show Contestant, (okay, that last one wasn’t ‘official’, but we all thought it  :p), etc.  I remember graduating fifth in my class, having a 3.8 grade average, having colleges clamoring for my attention and military recruiters calling every five minutes (slight exaggeration).  And then there was that ubiquitous question: Where do you see yourself in ten years? Do you think you will be successful in the future?

I always had an answer. We all did.

I also remember the long nights at sleepovers, talking into the wee hours about where we wanted to be in the future and what we thought (or hoped) our lives would be like.  We had a ‘plan’; finishing my doctorate in psychology, having a career as a therapist in private practice, married by 25, first kid at 27, second kid at 30, and so on. I had all these high goals for myself and ideas of how I thought things would be. I remember some of the things my friends said that they wanted, what teachers said about me, the big plans I had.  Looking at Facebook made me think, which ones  have I accomplished?

Answer: none.

I don’t remember exactly where or why I got off-track.  I thought I would be a psychiatrist or counselor. I knew I would be good at it because I was always the one people came to with problems.  I took a class in high school that was a closed-circuit news program, and I fell in love with it.  There was a period where I wanted to be a broadcast journalist and travel the world.  I wanted to be a news anchor, have my own talk show, or write for television. I wanted to interview famous people, get in really good with the president and get him to let me get married on the White House lawn.  I wanted to write commercials or public service announcements. I had all these things I wanted to do, but couldn’t really decide on any of them. I constantly thought about changing my major or adding on a minor. My scholarship only renewed for four years, so whatever I did, I had to graduate in four years.  All this was while socializing more than I ever had before, enjoying a type of popularity and outgoing personality that I always wanted in high school, but felt was so out of reach.

Somewhere along the line, i decided I wanted to go to law school. I wanted to be a family lawyer, which is basically a social worker with a law degree.  Although I had bipolar (although I didn’t know that is what it was then), I felt that that would be an asset because I would be able to understand things from both sides.

But I never did any of these things.  I graduated with a degree in communication, working on television sets like I did in high school.  I got a job doing this, and was horrible at it.  I worked in sales, and I was horrible at that too.  I had a few romantic relationships, and failed at those too.  I was horrible at *everything.*  Or, anything I could really make money at.  I have never had a job that I wanted to make a career out of or  that I was proud to tell my friends from school about. I got fired over and over from jobs because I had no attention span and had to live off my credit cards. I felt I was too stupid to hold onto anything for more than a couple of years, even though this isn’t really true.  I worried constantly, got no sleep and had so many money problems that I had to file for bankruptcy for credit card debt.  My faith in God slipped and was practically destroyed at one point. Depression was pretty much my constant companion. I screwed up everything I touched. I became the person parents warned about, who had no direction in life and couldn’t make anything work.  I had what my friend J refers to as a ‘dark night of the soul’, except this night stretched on for years, with only slivers of light. I was somehow able to hide some of this from friends; the person they usually saw was the chick who came home from work bouncing off the walls, never met a stranger, and was always finding fun things to do.  They didn’t see the lethargic, reclusive, banal person very often; it’s kind of hard to see someone when she hasn’t left her bedroom for three days.  It was either that, or they didn’t mind being around it.  I couldn’t hide it from boyfriends, though, which contributed to the demise of a couple of serious relationships that I had hoped would last forever.  They couldn’t handle me, and ran off.  I thought I would always be alone, which was one of my greatest fears. I thought things would always be that way-dark- and I had to just accept it.

Well, I didn’t accept it.  That’s a good thing, because I didn’t have to. I met my husband at a wedding.  I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began treatment. As time went on, I began to see that this was behind a lot of the failed jobs, failed relationships, and everything else that had made a wreck of my life.  I got engaged. I got married.  I got my faith back, which was no small feat.

Finally, there was light. Maybe, just maybe, now I could get started on becoming successful in my life.

Come to think of it, I *am* successful. It’s just a matter of how you define success.

I don’t have a hard-charging career; in fact, I don’t have a job at all.  But I have a great husband.

I didn’t get an advanced degree in college and perhaps didn’t study what I should have, but I found some really great friends.

Maybe I am not using my *degree*, but I am using what I learned.  Like most people, about 75% of what I learned in college was not in a classroom. It was out in the world;  how to relate to people who are different from me,  how to manage my time and my finances (although the last one still needs work),  how to think more critically and how to manage myself without a parent or anyone else looking over my shoulder.  I also learned what was really important in life; relationships, quality time with people I love, self-esteem and, most of all, reliance on God. I learned that there were a lot more ways to serve Him and to help others than in a professional position.

I remember now that this was why I chose not to pursue law school; I did not want to kill myself at an office for 80 hours a week and have no time for a life.   It’s wasn’t my degree I got married to four years ago, and it won’t be my career that will cry at my funeral.  I have family, I have friends, I have a different sort of intelligence than I thought I did, I have a more mature and enduring faith.  I have love in my life.  Looking at all of these things, I can now see that things *did* work out, that I *am* a success.

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About theprozacqueen

30s, female, married, Georgia US, very opinionated, open-minded mostly, too nice for my own good, Christian, fairly liberal, friendly. I have a pretty big family and several friends and in-laws that might as well be family. I don't have kids, but I have five cats who think they're kids. I have a silly (and sometimes off-color) sense of humor. I'm a Christian so I'll try not to be nasty or use bad language in my posts, but I'm not making any promises, View all posts by theprozacqueen

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