I have recently been struggling with feeling that I have not had a successful year. (Since I am still living at home; still without a permanent, full-time, or paying job; still unattached) Not at all saying that I haven’t done anything this year, or that I am full of woe and misery. Nothing like that. I’m just being honest: I’m not where I thought I would be. I’m not where I wanted to be by now.
I posted a note on Facebook the other day, updating everyone across the board on how things were going- or not going- and expressed the same feeling of discontent. (It was long, so I will spare you. But you can probably guess the gist of it.)
At any rate, as usual, my remarkable friends responded with gentleness and love. You guys are a supportive lot. In a particular conversation, Michelle and I were talking about the disconnect between the social ideas of success and our personal idea of success. In other words- when I say I don’t feel successful, whose standards am I using? The standards of society: get a job, get a house, make money, get a fella? Or other, more personal goals and means of understanding success: personal growth, spiritual stability, the building of strong friendships, volunteering, etc?
There is no clear answer for this. Of course, social standards of success are not always bad. I genuinely would like a job and an income and a place of my own, and there’s not anything shallow about that. But if that’s all I’m going on to gauge my success, it’s not going to be pretty.
It’s not like I’m going to go all Thoreau on you guys: living in the woods, tax evasion, and being a social pariah may work well for some writers, but not for this one. I’m just saying that my conversation with my friend was a great reminder that there is more than one way to define success. For example, giving to others of your time and yourself is definitely a mark of a successful life- but it is a lot more difficult to do this if you are not in a stable, secure place yourself (and this requires some degree of traditional, material success).
Success seems to be a combination of accomplishing your goals and learning something when you don’t.
What do you think? What is the best unit for the measurement of success? And how are things stacking up for you these days?