I have always wondered what exactly success is, feels like, tastes like and looks like. Is success having a roof over your head and food in the refrigerator? Is it being able to pay your bills? Is it staying true to the cravings of your soul, the images in your youthful dreams? Does it look like that guy driving around in the newest Audi, the actor on the screen or the rock star being idolized by thousands of adoring fans while on stage? To be honest, I am confused by exactly what success is and what it means. Through trial and error, I am at least confident saying that I know what success is not. Success is not having to earn a living doing something that has little to do with your dream. Success does not involve too much compromise and/or settling. Success is not having to ask your father to take you clothes shopping when you are 40, unemployed and shackled with a large amount of debt.
But then again maybe success is a state of mind, a way of thinking, a belief system. At least this is what I am hoping is the case. In my life I have had two serious dreams that have not born serious monetary fruit or worldly attention. I wanted to be a professional tennis player when I was younger and then after I started reading and drinking more I decided to trade that dream in for the dream of being a writer/painter. Despite the fact that neither of these dreams have yet to work out (the only real chance I have of achieving my professional tennis dream is maybe getting to compete some day on the senior citizens professional tennis circuit), I still try to keep my spirit up and convince myself that I have indeed been successful. After all, I have a beautiful and loving fiance, a roof over my head, a fridge full of food, nice clothes hanging in my closet (even though these clothes seem to be food for moths), a newish fully owned car that works (but that I struggle to afford), various opportunities, positively influence a few people in my lifetime, good working headphones and an iPod filled with a plethora of good music. The current NOW of my life is really good- but is it successful?
Often times I feel this inner void that sneaks up on me. I try to fill it in with various foods and things, but the void consumes these things faster than I can chew them down or purchase them. What is this void? From where does it come? Shall I call it existential? A chronic feeling of dissatisfaction that is the result of not fully living my dream? Is it not fair to say that our consumer society has been built upon temporarily satisfying and alleviating these failed dreams? Last night while I was lying in bed I found myself in a bit of a funk. I get into these funks whenever I think too much about what I do not have, what I have not been able to achieve. I ask myself if I am doing with my life exactly what I want to be doing, am I doing what I was born to do? I also wonder if I am seen by others for who I am, not for who I have to be? Are there a lot of should of, would of and could of thoughts running around in my mind? I was also thinking about what Jay Z (one of the wealthiest and most successful black men in the world) said about ordinary success. In an article I read he talked about how he feels sad for people who have to go to work everyday to achieve ordinary success, the same kind of success as the majority of other people. Jay Z discussed how he feels particularly sad for those individuals who have to pursue ordinary success because their dreams did not work out. Tell me about it.
“If you could be doing exactly what you wanted, what would it look like?” my fiance asked me as I lay besides her in bed. “I would have a decent sized painting and writing studio, no debt, no obligation to go to a job and would be able to be immersed in my creative work and earn a living pursuing my creative aspirations.” “Is there not a happy medium you could find?” she asked. “What do you mean?” I replied. “I mean can you not do your work as a therapist so you can pay your bills and help others but also spend an equal amount of time doing your writing and painting?” I found myself feeling frustrated by this suggestion. Aggravation grew in my chest as I thought about what little energy I already have left. I wanted to say “do you really think I have the energy to work as a therapist and also seriously pursue my artistic work?” Instead I just took a deep breath and let it out. I then figured out what success might be- getting to spend the majority of your energy on doing the work that you want to do, getting to be engaged with your life’s work/purpose on a full-time basis. Basically, not having to find a happy medium.
I suppose this may be why I envy certain actors, musicians, writers and artists- they get to make a living doing their life’s work and do not have to return to graduate school, go into serious debt in order to build a decent and worth while career. Their soul work is acknowledged in the world, not just in the privacy of their own minds. As I turned out the light and shut my eyes to go to sleep, I realized that I am the one who has made certain choices in my life. Sure I may not have had parents who supported my dreams but maybe I never believed strongly enough that I was capable of achieving whatever I put my mind to. Maybe I smoked too much dope. I doubted myself and did not do all I could of done to turn my dreams into some kind of tangible reality (here is an example of one such could of statement I live with). Such is life- it is the deck of cards that I have been dealt. I am almost 41 years old and about to embark upon a new career as a psychotherapist. Being a psychotherapist did not enter into my youthful dreams but I figure that it is better than waiting tables. No, I do not consider myself a success man, but I am open to the idea that maybe some day I will. In my back pocket I still carry around a wallet sized portion of hope that I have enough time on earth to see at least a part of my youthful dreams become a reality. I will keep doing my part, keep showing up, keep writing and painting and keep remaining open to possibilities and inspiration rather than compartmentalized by a profession. However, now I may just have to begin to work on finding a “happy medium.”