I was discussing a lad I went to school with with another peer’s parents.
“Oh, so-and-so has so much going for them,” they gushed. “He has a really good full time job, has just bought a house and has a really really nice car. He’s got a lot to show for himself.”
It got me pondering just what is deemed worthy of being classed as “a lot to show for yourself”. In the Western world, this is largely said in regards to material and tangible things – a home in your name, employment that pays a lot of money and – perhaps more so in relation to a those a tad older than myself – a dutiful wife and two-point-five kids complete with golden ringlets, sunny smiles and a fresh batch of apple cinnamon muffins. How fab.
But I’m starting to see things differently. Up until now, I’ve thought the universal definition of a success is defined by such status markers. The home owner. The chunk of Edam in the office (I.e., the cliched “big cheese”). The flashy car, the designer sunnies, the day trips to Waiheke to taste wine and eat tapas on a Sunday before ferrying back to ready yourself for the 6am wake up the following AM. Then, five nine to fivers before the next two days of “rest” and spending of what is left of the weekly pay cheque after home loan repayments, power bills and grocery shopping tally ups have been paid on leisure activities before another five days of nine to fivers (which, let’s be honest, are actually more commonly eight to sixers, even seveners at times).
A lot to show for yourself? Mate, I have to say I disagree.
Before I trottle on with how I’m increasingly starting to see success, I have to say I am in no way disregarding others’ achievements. I’m in awe of you home owners at the age of 23, you guys racing up the ranks in the business place, the girls settling down to be mothers and raising the next generations of 21st century kidlettes. Good bloody on you – I lift my Mt Everest Base Camp cap off to you (I’ll admit; worn on my walks so that everyone can clearly see that I’ve been there). A lot to show for yourselves, no doubt about it. I just don’t measure success in such the same way.
The idea of owning a house terrifies me. Not the mortgage, nor the responsibility or the need to actually do housework (actually, all of that does but much less so than the following), but the idea you are sort of rooted in one place. I know I know, you can rent out and all that hoo hah, but the thought of having this actual building classed as of your ownership (and a whole hunk of the bank’s) unleashes an involuntary shudder in me with an accompanied “fuck that”. I don’t want to be tied to anywhere so that I can up and leave as I please, whenever I please. Mate, I find it a real challenge to commit to a three-month gym membership.
I had a little breakdown a few weeks ago (what’s new?) declaring to Deb, “I have nothing to show for myself!”. My FB newsfeed was overrun with pics of my pals in front of “sold” signs, splaying open their hand to show off a pearler on the ring finger, putting up an ultrasound pic of a little one to be (but seriously, why the ultrasound? It’s something I will never understand. Unless I ever get pregnant. Then you’ll probably see one on my page).
You see, for a long long time there’s only ever been one word that defines successful in my worldview: skinny. When I returned from India and Nepal I deemed myself extremely successful, and though a portion of this praise was from what I had accomplished on the trip, the vast majority was because I’d attained a significantly smaller size. Success, for as long as I can remember, has always been synonymous with skinny – even at Uni prizegiving for my final year at AUT, my awards were greatly overshadowed by an all encompassing sense of failure; in one photo I looked bigger than I regarded as acceptable, and the despair at the shot overrode the sensation of triumph.
So my definition of success has to change. It can’t all rest on how skinny I am anymore; healthy, yes, well, of course, but not the numbers on the scales or how much my jeans sag. So I started searching for new clarification, and found that what many others deem successful just isn’t so in regards to my own self.
I don’t want a hundred thousand dollar car; I want memories of riding in overcrowded tuk tuks in Thailand. I don’t want Ksubi jeans or Stolen Girlfriend tees or whatever else is having a spotlight moment at Superette; I want my Indian gypsy pants purchased in an overrun market place, my crotchet headband from up in the Himalayas, my discoloured daisy ring bartered for a measly $4 from a Vietnamese street seller. I don’t want to have a business card declaring me as CEO or Vice President or Head of Accounts or any such tosh, if that comes along with workaholism and no balance with fun and play (all or nothing means it would never be something to switch off from). And the multi million dollar home, with length pool, personal gym, tennis court, abundance of bedrooms and stellar surroundings? Well yes of course, it’d be sensational to languish in such luxury, but not if it came at the price of stress, intense hours at work and killer fees. I’d be happy in a rented beachside bach, trinkets from travels adorning the interior, massive bookshelves lining the walls, photo albums on the coffee table for a regular flick through (yes, I am one of the very few under the age of 82 who still prints off their photos and displays them in an album) and a calm existence (obviously once my book becomes a best seller and my days are filled with yoga, runs and zen meditation. What you think you will become, right Buddha?).
I was hanging with a chum a few weeks ago and talking about upcoming weddings I shall be union-isn’t. “Man, you’re such a catch,” he said. (Not saying to melody on my own sax, I must clarify; merely divulging as it’s rather relevant). I burst out laughing in response. “Rack off,” I scoffed. “Twenty-four, back living at home, no assets to speak of, shouldering a hefty student loan and attempting to recover from a decade-long suffered mental disease; hardly a safe on first base, let alone a home run. I haven’t got a hell of a lot to SHOW FOR MYSELF.”
“You are and you do,” he insisted. “Look at your life of adventure and experience. You’re out living.you’re not shackled to a desk day in and day out. And look what you’ve done – more ticks on a bucket list than most people do in a lifetime. You have eons to SHOW FOR YOURSELF; who cares if they’re not necessarily what other people may see as being the correct things?”
You know what? He was absolutely right on.
I do have a lot to – here we go – show for myself. It’s just not exactly what society tells us is the desired. But in the last six months or so, I’m starting to really see what I do want, and what – when I accomplish it – I see as successful. Happiness. Health. (I’m working on both). Laughter and light. For me, getting a map of the world, covering it with drawing pins and being able to say, “I’ve been there.” Success in feeling good and absolutely nailing dreams and aspirations.
Success is relative. Having a lot to show for yourself is relative. Who’s to say that what displaying as my life “trophies” so far are any more or any less than my pastime classroom counterpart? He might have a double garage to park his jeep in, but I have a rock that I got from EBC that I have next to my bed. I bet at night we both observe our own piece of pride and feel similiar stirrings of success. But I don’t want a garage right now (though I’d take the jeep, as long as it was paid for in full already) and something tells me he wouldn’t give two fucks about a rock.
People always say life is full of ups and downs, successes and failures. But it’s what you yourself seem as such that decide just what falls into those categories.
I am a success to a degree in my owns eyes. I have plans in play to be able to see myself as full on successful.
Having a lot to show for yourself is how you define it.
Anyone want to come over to see my collection of rocks and trinkets? It’s quite the show.