The Measure of Success

A few days ago I had a conversation with someone who I haven’t seen in almost ten years.  The customary questions were asked – how was I, what was I up to.    The take away from the conversation was a little awkward.  They were surprised by the direction my life had gone.

My grandmother would’ve probably told you my desire was to engross myself in having a family early on.  I spent my days at her house while my mother was at work.  She watched me play with dolls, ‘cook’ meals, and help clean.  Those were things I genuinely enjoyed doing as a child.  I also loved books, balls, playing outside.  But my dolls – the ‘real’ ones not any small Barbies – those were what I enjoyed.

SuccessI went through many answers to the proverbial “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.  Answers ranged from mom, psychologist, OB/GYN, daycare teacher, writer, music video director…  And being the romantic that I am, I often dreamed of marriage.  I had my wedding ring designed (on paper) by the time I was thirteen.  I had lists of baby names by age eleven.  But one thing remained constant, I continued to write.  I continued to engross myself in music and stories.  And I loved the idea of love.

By some standards, I married early.  I knew real love when I found it and I knew that we were meant to be together.  I have often thought myself an old soul.  I’ve sought out the company of people older than myself more often than not.  And I have nearly my whole life felt as though I was born into the wrong era.

When I was younger, I was often made to feel shame when I would say I wanted something simple with my life.  Did I not have dreams?  Did I not want more?  Did I not know there was no money in simply ‘being a wife and a mother’.  I knew. I didn’t care.  I did also dream of writing songs, books, maybe even movies.  Those are dreams that will also win you eye rolls when spoken aloud.  Do I live in the clouds?  Do I not realize that I could do more?

For a while, I tried to live out the dreams that others said I would be good at.  I considered becoming a daycare teacher and I only had a few credit hours left to complete that degree.  But I didn’t enjoy it.  I made good grades and I loved children, but I wanted my own.  Not to care for someone else’s.  I explored other career and college paths, pushing writing further and further away.  I always came back to it.  On sleepless nights or days full of tears, the keyboard or pen and paper were my old familiar friends.  I am not happy if I have been away from writing for a few days.  It has become a part of who I am.

My encounter ended with, “Well are you happy?”  And I could answer yes without question.  Yes, I am tired some days and no one likes to deal with toddler tantrums and poop.  But, to watch my children grow, to share with them nature’s wonders, kitchen magic, and life’s simple joys – that is more than happiness, that is bliss.  To fall into the arms of the man I proclaimed was my one and only almost a decade ago.  To feel as in love with him now as I did then – that’s success.  That is love, that is happiness, that is life.

Success2I don’t have a fancy job, car, or huge home.  I have a job full of hard work and steeped in much reward – mother.  I drive a mini-van that is full of giggles when my children’s favorite songs come on the radio.  I have dodged cheerios and chicken nuggets while driving said minivan.  Our home is perfect for us.  It holds memories of painting, bringing home our children, late nights with friends. Meals prepared with love and experimentation.  A fresh spring or fall breeze wafting through the windows…

Not everyone’s success is measured by the degrees they hold or the money they obtain.  Some of us just wanted a secure family to love and to nurture.  Yes, my husband works.  And yes, we need money to live.  I understand that.  But it isn’t all there is to life.

At the end of the day what matters is the impact we’ve made on each other and what memories we leave behind.  Money will be gone.  But life’s lessons, love, support, memories…those will remain.  And in those, I am rich.

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One thought on “The Measure of Success

  1. I completely agree. I used to really think (and sometimes still do) that success was only my career. I still feel pretty hardcore about my professional ambitions but I’ve also grown quite a respect for women who choose to be full-time moms. At the end of the day, I recognize that my family and friends are the glue in my life and (career dreams aside) the most important thing is the relationships I cultivate and the experiences I share. Success to me is peace of mind and happiness.

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