Success is a topic that I have been struggling with for a while. You see, during all of my academic years, I was considered “successful”. I never had any true issues in school (except developing a hatred of math) and I always had high grades. I graduated high school at 16, and started college that fall. I finished college in 4.5 years with a 3.8 GPA, a dual major and two minors. I graduated from college with honors and everyone told me I could be whatever I wanted. I share this information with you not to brag, but as some background information.
Once I graduated, I continued working in the coffee shop inside a retail store. I felt like I would be doing it temporarily, until I found my grown-up job, the job that paid well and was in a subject I was passionate about and let me travel the world under the guise of “business”. I put out a million resumes, but I got no answers. Time continued to tick by, and I was still making lattes. Some of my friends and coworkers would ask when was I going to get out of there. Everyone said I had so much more potential than to just be a barista.
I know that the people who made such comments were making them in a concerned, encouraging spirit. I know that they weren’t trying to crush my spirits. But you see, I had no idea how to cope with not being “successful”. I wasn’t following the mold that millions before me had followed. I was not back in school to further increase my debt and my educational level. I was not making the coffee errands for the boss; I was simply making the coffee. The thought that I was no longer successful really took a toll on me. I felt ashamed. I felt like a failure. I felt like my life had no purpose, that I was just going to make lattes 5-6 days a week and hope I could pay rent that month.
I had been putting a little travel money aside and was randomly asked to go to Ireland with an old college pal and two of her friends. There was no way I could say no to that! I had a blast in Ireland, and something about the trip empowered me. I realized that I was successful! Just because I wasn’t following the traditional route of success did not mean that I wasn’t reaching my goals.
My ultimate goal was to travel. A job was just a means to an end. So what if I had a low-paying job? It was also low-commitment. I could take off as much time as I wanted and still have a job waiting for me when I came home. Why should I let others question my success? With this newfound confidence, I felt ready to take on the world.
I did get another job, one that pays much better and is a much better schedule. It’s also for my father’s business, which means that I not only get participate in many different aspects of the business but that I also am helping create a legacy, something that he can leave behind to his children. I’m very satisfied with my job, but I still have my job at the coffee shop. Everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) wonders why I still maintain that job, when I have such a better job now. The real reason? It’s so I can keep working towards my goals. No, I don’t want to get up at 6am on Saturdays after working a full week, so that I can sling coffee for 8.5 hours. But I do want to continue traveling. The coffee shop gig allows me to save up for the next big adventure. Success? In my eyes, yes.
I’ve already been able to see so much more than most people my age, and I have a trip planned for Iceland in July. I also have a potential trip to San Francisco in April. I’m steadily working towards my goals. Although I am not able to travel full-time or for long periods, it is becoming an increasingly realistic goal, and one that I am working towards every day.
Don’t let others define your success. Someone who dreams of being a world traveller will have a dramatically different set of challenges and goals than someone who dreams of being a stay-at-home mom. No matter what your dream is, there will always be someone out there who is a naysayer, who will wail about all of your untapped potential because your goal does not fall within their concept of societal norms. Define success for yourself. Do you have a dream? Have you made a list of long-term and short-term goals that will help you achieve your dream? Are you making steps towards completing those goals? If the answer is yes to the above questions, then it seems like you have defined your own success. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged by others, because you are in the process of creating your own happiness.