MARKERS OF SUCCESS
A friend was lamenting to me recently about how hard it feels like she is working, so diligently, but that she just had a birthday and it feels like… well, that she has nothing to show for her efforts. No house, no partner, no kids, no real nest egg or security of any kind, nothing really that one might expect to have amassed at a particular age, 35, 40, 45, whatever age you want to attach to this.
I know a lot of us must have felt this way at one time or another in our lives. It happened to me, I can’t remember what age. I felt like what have I been doing my whole life, I have nothing really to show for it, after all these years. None of the usual “markers” that are commonly used by our society to measure progress or success: house, nice car, husband, family, job, finances or establishment in our career or WHATEVER. I had none of that and I felt… a little useless and a little lost.
This can be pretty disheartening. But it is also a marker of maturity. It is a marker of standing in your life and taking a look at it and wondering… what is it all for?? One can put their head down and “go “ for all those things, even ACHIEVE most of them, only to look up from our hard work at 50 or 60 or 65 to ask ourselves “now what?” or “what is it all for?”, why all the crazy striving, I have all the things I am supposed to have to be happy, but I am not.
So I think standing in your life and asking that question earlier on or having this wondering in your mind about it is definitely a GOOD thing, a sign of “spiritual growth” as I encouraged my friend the other day. Because when we can stand and face this feeling of emptiness or “what is it all for?” earlier on in our life, we have lots of time to change it or make adjustments according to what truly makes US happy, not what society says we should have, do or achieve in this lifetime to feel complete.
As long as we are measuring our progress and success according to someone else’s measuring stick, we will never be truly happy. We have to figure out what our own markers to success are. What is meaningful to us and to us alone?
I used to work as an English teacher in Okinawa, Japan. I had a great paying job on a sub-tropical island very much like the climate of Hawaii. I had lots of friends, both expats and locals and on weekends we would go camping and kayaking and go to beach parties. We would have beach clean ups and barbeques and eat fabulous food. During vacation I easily travelled to any of the nearby countries in southeast Asia for a holiday. It was easy money but the work was not satisfying or fulfilling because I didn’t feel like I was effective at what I was hired to do there, and the school structure within which you must work was not set up for me to be able to do my job effectively, and in fact, no one cared if I WAS able to teach the children English or not, only that the position was filled by a Caucasian native English speaker who showed up to the school each day to read the cue cards with an American accent.
I grew more and more disenchanted as the months, years wore on. When I expressed my chagrin to those around me, I was told to just show up and collect my easy paycheck and don’t worry about it. Enjoy my life. I could not. A piece of me was dying.
My father, still to this day, asks me why I left such a secure and well paying career type job that allowed me financial stability and the freedom to travel at will. I still tell him that I just wasn’t happy, dad, the job became soul sucking and a lie. I couldn’t stay on in a position like that.
For me, the measuring stick of money and success was not enough to find fulfillment inside myself, and this was too high a price to pay for the other.
THE "GOOD LIFE"
Nowadays, I find my good living walking in the hills out behind my house. On the path with the sky and the trees, it doesn’t matter that I am not making top dollar. In that moment, I am living. That is life. More and more I crave to lay on the grass and just look up at the clouds and breathe. Just breathe. I don’t want to chase the dragon. My motivation to achieve this or that sometimes gets scarily more scarce each day but I am encouraged by my contentment with what is simple and what is free in life.
I think more and more I am discovering what truly makes me happy and what I need to feel peace, and it is not all of the above listed scenarios that society has imprinted on me that I need to be successful. The truth is actually quite different and quite basic at its heart.
So I take care of my health, I seek solitude, I seek company with quality people in doses that nurture me, not deplete me, I seek to be out in nature, as close to her as possible, to sit on the ground, to dip my toes in the her pools of water, to put my heart on the wings of birds that fly overhead, to stop and live and breathe in THIS moment, so that I won’t look up when I am 65 and say “where am I? what happened?”. I will know, I have lived, because I started living now.