Isn’t it amazing how the look of success changes depending on our season of life, our environment, our sense of selves, our…age?!
Five years ago I was a brand new classroom teacher, somewhat timid, always second-guessing myself, overly-prepared.
Success was usually getting through the day without having to send anyone to the dean, call anyone’s parents, swearing or getting sworn at, or, if I was feeling really ambitious, feeling like I had actually taught something to at least a few somebodies.
This morning, I was a newish teacher to two classes – one of three-year-olds, one of four-and-five year olds. I felt the same way.
Success was getting through 2 classes – one 30 minutes, one 45, without anyone getting poked in the eye with a stick (’cause we were making crosses), out-loud reading the glorious book The Tale of Three Trees without crying, managing to captivate eight kids with my bag of “things made from wood,” and not having to console, hold, or scold either of my children during these sessions.
This afternoon, success is getting each of them down for much-needed but often-fought naps, preparing my eBay sales for shipping, and planning to pack up the rest of the bookshelves.
(I have gone against my inner grain to give away a LOT of books, but we still have a WHOLE LOT of books).
Tonight, I will be speaking with someone dear to me about his success. His idea of it and mine are quite different, but that’s because we are separated by 15 years. When I was his age, my idea of success was much like his is right now: being in love, making some money, having the power to make my own decisions.
There is nothing wrong with those things except that they only cover a little ground. Nothing feels better than being in love, and little feels worse than losing the feeling, and that, I’m afraid to tell all you Disney Princesses, happens to every couple at some point. There is a point when we have to choose love, and even in the victory of saying yes there is a sadness in the realization that love is not a fairy tale, that happily ever after is more like content ever after if you work really hard at it.
Making money is also a really, really, REALLY important part of success, but since in the last two years I’ve probably worked harder than ever in my life on DREAM jobs and made almost nothing doing them, I have mixed feelings on this one. You can’t live on dreams and money can’t buy happiness. The fine line I think we’ve found is that you do what you HAVE to to get what you WANT. I have a degree in teaching that I might not ever have to use again, but I have it, I can use it, and the skills and experiences I gained from earning it have prepared me for a hundred other jobs and experiences I couldn’t have foreseen.
And power: it is the launching point for one-to-one debates and the fall of kingdoms. Who doesn’t want power? My 5 month old niece wants power when it comes to when she eats and sleeps. My 3 and 4 year daughters want power to decide what is for dinner, what they wear, what they learn, and to drive the car. The thirst for power in engrained in us and becomes harder to satiate the older we get. The problem with power, though, is as Spiderman put it (or was it Uncle Ben? or Ben Kanobi? Anyway…) With great power comes great responsibility.
I was over the moon when I had the means and power to buy my first brand new car, and it was my “dream car” – a Chevy Blazer. But with it came the responsibility of a huge interest rate (because I was young) and having to pay for an upside-down trade in order to get rid of the rate. Power means having to decide whether to take a child to the ER or ride it out and dealing with the consequences either way. Power means having to decide whether to hold your tongue and possibly effect change in a situation or bite your tongue and the let the cards fall.
Personal power is like solar power. It only works when the sun is out, or when our brains are functioning the right way.
What I mean in this little tangent is that “success” is going to change on us, all the time. I know a man right now who used to have, literally, millions of dollars at his disposal. Now he is working carefully and patiently for the chance to make a comfortable living for his family just so they can be together.
We cannot see into our future. All we can do is make every intentional step we can to ensure our ability to deal with the future. We have to recognize that decisions we make today might affect our “success” ten years from now.
Anyway. I have to go affect change in my kitchen. It’s a mess and we have our 10 millionth house showing in 90 minutes.