When I was younger, I thought my life would unfold in a very sequential fashion. I’d graduate High School, get my Bachelor’s degree, get my Master’s degree, and without skipping a beat get a job and start a family. It’s not a bad series of events by any stretch of the imagination. Some people would be perfectly okay with this life, including 17-year old me. But, how did I formulate this perspective on how life should unfold? I didn’t construct this on my own, so it had to come from somewhere. The answer was simple. It was my parents who instilled this idea in my head that by following this specific life trajectory you would be successful and would almost be guaranteed a comfortable life. The interesting thing that I came to understand was that this notion was not an original concept created by my parents. They were both instilled with this belief from their parents who grew up during the times of the Great Depression and when success was very much connected to someone’s education, career, and if they had a family of their own.
What I am trying to say here is that I don’t want to cast any blame on my parents for the way they raised me or for the morals and values that they instilled in me from a very early age. They were doing the best they could with what they had and from how they were raised. At the end of the day, they just wanted me to be happy and to have a good life. In their minds, having this type of life, following this path, resulted in feeling secure, feeling safe. But, how real was this sense of security? Or was it false narrative used to instill fear, keep people in line, and scare them away from taking a different road. A road less traveled. A road that was not “accepted” by society.
Having said that, I took their advice at first. I finished High School and went straight to college. I graduated after 4 years with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. I thought, at least at the time, the next logical step was to go to Graduate School and pursue a Master’s Degree. So, I checked off all the boxes necessary, but when it came time to take the GRE’s, I realized that I was nowhere near ready to embark on that path. I felt it in my gut. My instincts were telling me it was a bad idea at the time, so instead I packed up my car and moved to California. At the age of 22, that was my first real act of dissent from the so-called “ideal life path” according to my parents and a majority of society. As the years went on, I sort of bounced back and forth along the path that was accepted by society and one that made me truly happy. I ended up going back to Graduate School at 28 and getting my Master’s Degree when I was 30. But, by the age of 32 I was helping build a start-up company from a thought written down on a piece of paper to a fully-functioning operation.
By 34, I left the start-up company and worked as a bartender in the catering and nightlife industry. It was not my ideal situation, but it afforded me the time and space to follow other life passions. I decided to listen to my heart more and more. I decided to not let my mind create this feeling of fear within me that made me regret certain choices that I made in the past. To be honest, it was a struggle at times. I let the fear creep in from time to time and it really did a number on me. It would verbally beat me up, telling me I should’ve did this or I should’ve listened to my parents. I learned that this fear and how it entered my brain was not real, it was just fabrication of my mind.
For too long, I had allowed this fear and societal “norms” to dictate my idea of happiness, my idea of success, and how life was supposed to be lived. Remember how I said that I always thought I knew how my life would unfold? Well, let’s just say that it didn’t go as planned. My path has not been consistent with how society wants you to live or how society brainwashes you to believe there is only one life trajectory that is accepted. And, that doesn’t bother me anymore. I know that if I followed the “accepted” path that I would not be happy; my soul would be miserable and I would have to smile on the outside while feeling unhappy on the inside.
Realizing that I don’t have to conform to societal pressures is quite liberating. It takes the focus off what everyone else thinks I should be doing and allows me to concentrate on what makes me happy. What makes my soul happy. My happiness is no longer tied up in my financial status, my job title, or my family situation (or lake thereof). My happiness is the pure joy and love that I feel from being free from those constraints. Today, my life is filled with so much love. I am grateful for this love, this unconditional love that I can offer, and at the same time, receive from the universe.
I wake up every morning knowing that I am pursuing my passions, doing things that I love, and focusing my time and energy on things that serve me. That is my definition of success.