I woke up with a headache.
Living in Florida, this is a normal state of affairs throughout summer, while the weather does its level best to crush all opposition with a combination of scorching sun and house-shaking thunderstorms.
Waking up with a headache also makes it hard to think about what I should talk about on this humble little blog, especially in my ongoing war to present my genuine thoughts (for what they are worth) without a side of pretentiousness.
So I went browsing for other writer blogs in search of ideas or topics I have some views of my own about, and that has led me to think about Success, with a capital S.
Coming of Age
I remember when I was growing up and going through school, and a lot of the things I was told. I’ve posted about my primary school in England on here in the past, and that it was a really, really great little school to attend. Victorian built, small, with truly wonderful staff whose names I still remember to this day.
Like all teachers of the time, they joined my mother in pushing me to try hard under the assumption that one can do whatever one puts one’s mind to if you put in enough effort and study.
Sadly, the world failed to live up to those expectations. We cannot, after all, have a world of astronauts without anyone left to clean the bathrooms and the like. As an adult, I am almost more appreciative of fast food workers and janitors than I am of astrophysicists and nuclear chemists because I know how much such people affect my life every day.
The world needs all sorts of people, in all sorts of jobs. Every single person who helps you to live your life is as worthwhile as the next, regardless of their income or education level, which means my perception of what Success would be as I grew up has turned out to be anything but true.
So, if success isn’t becoming a high flying astronaut or talented doctor, and if effort and study can’t always get you exactly where you imaged you would be… what is success? How do you know when you have achieved it?
Good question. Not sure I have a clear answer, and I certainly don’t expect my wittering to change the world, but I think I know what success means for me.
It’s being content and achieving my personal goals.
I am super proud of my learning and work ethic. I love to find out about new things, follow the latest scientific discoveries, share my random knowledge with anyone who is willing to listen. I know I’ll never change the world with what I know, but that’s ok – just knowing and sharing my love for learning with others is satisfying. I do not need a Nobel Peace Prize or doctorate to tell me I have succeeded in using my amazingly complex human brain.
Similarly, I know that what I am currently doing with my writing is equivalent to success for me. I am pursuing the thing I feel most passionate about, and while I am currently working at a supremely slow and unmeasurable rate because I’m working on five projects at once (so none are getting completed quickly), I would rather take years to do a job right than only take one and do it poorly.
Quality, passion, and enjoyment are the hallmark of my writing, and while I still make the mistake of comparing myself to others at times, and find myself lacking, I am content with what I do day to day.
How can I see that as anything less than success? No one makes me do what I do, and there are days it is beyond hard and my brain wants to leak out of my ears, but I do it anyway. I have accomplished more than many in my lifetime, but it is only full of value because I recognize those moments as achievements in their own right. No one else can define my enjoyment or satisfaction for me, and to assume I need the approval of others to find that value would lead to a very fragile existence, I fear.
No one else has walked the exact same path I have, with the exact same thoughts, or know what limits and difficulties I have overcome to be where I am, just as I cannot know those same facets in others.
What I can know is how happy and satisfied my friends and loved ones are in what they are currently doing, whatever it may be. Most f them would think of themselves as having been successful in life, but critically they are also still working towards something else, the next step, the next success.
I don’t think there is a checklist to ‘win’ at life. I don’t think success can ever be quantified and written down for us as a species. I don’t think anyone else can define what makes you worthwhile, what your biggest and most important successes and challenges are.
Some people never got to know about their ‘success’ before they died (Van Gogh, anyone?) or how the world would remember them, and other people who thought they were successful have gone to lose much of their status as the years have gone on (Antonio Moniz earned a Nobel Prize for inventing the lobotomy, which is now blanched at by modern science.)
The best any one person can do is to do your best, strive for what matters to you, treat others kindly and compassionately, and celebrate every success you feel you have achieved wholeheartedly. Try not to put your worth in the thoughts of others, and keep doing what you do – no one else will ever do it the same as you do.
And don’t make a list of the top ten writing blogs for me to find when I have a headache, only for half of them to no longer exist 😉
(Yes, that is entirely how we ended up here today.)
Write and read on, my folks. I believe in you.