You’ve probably been hearing it for years now, well meaning people telling you to chase your dreams. Aim high. Never quit until you make it.
What many of us forget to mention — and what no one told me — is that success doesn’t feel the way you think it will. Sometimes it’s obvious, like the euphoria that hits when you cross the stage, diploma in hand, or you see your name etched into a trophy. But that high doesn’t last. In a matter of days you’ll wake up and it’s just another morning. You go through your usual routine, eat your usual breakfast, prepare for your usual responsibilities and suddenly, you’re looking ahead to what’s next.
That’s how success feels most of the time.
It’s long periods of hard work for a momentary surge that comes with ticking a coveted box before moving down the list. Maybe this new goal will be bigger. Maybe you hope it’ll impress or will help you prove that you’ve finally arrived. Yet, surprise, all that happens is the cycle repeats.
There’s nothing wrong with chasing goals. Believe me, life becomes incredibly drab when you stop challenging yourself; yet dreams should be the jewels on the crown of a life well-lived, not the crown itself.
In fact, there may never come a time when you look around and feel you’ve arrived. It’s human nature to long for variety. For change. The second we achieve the titles or security we desperately seek, we can’t help but turn our sites outward to that which will make life more interesting and unpredictable again. It’s a fun, little quirk in the design.
That’s why assigning your self-worth to a dream hoisted high on a pedestal is akin to a virus slowly infecting the soul. Your worth is not something you need to find or to prove to anyone. You already have it. There is only one you, my darling, just one. No one thinks like you, sees solutions like you or experiences the world like you do. You are already enough simply because you are here. Hopefully in the days ahead you will learn to share what’s inside of you in meaningful ways that bring you joy rather than accolades.
Accomplishments can be fun to rack up, of course, as long as you remember what’s most important, which I’d argue is taking your time walking through this life. Our days here are precious and few. It’s easy to forget that when we concentrate on how we wish things were and neglect to enjoy what’s right in front of us.
That said, sometimes what’s in front of you is injustice or relationships breaking down. There will heartbreak and days you question yourself and the choices you’ve made. But that’s all part of it. If it were easy all the time, the highs wouldn’t be as high, or the beauty as breathtaking. For there will also be joy and love and surprises in abundance as you go; hold tight to that any time you’re down on your knees picking up the pieces of life when something breaks. When the days are dark, sometimes what we need more than anything is to close our eyes and rediscover who we are through the silence within us, for that silence remembers even when we’re too hurt or angry to recall.
Lastly, being busy doesn’t a happy life make. There are periods when being busy is unavoidable, but if you live in that space you will miss out on the small details that turn out to be the big ones later on. I didn’t get to know my husband’s great uncle until a few years back when we spent several days at his home. His health was failing and that knowledge was evident in his every word and action. His laughs shook his entire belly and every story he shared was full of humor, honesty and hard lessons. However, what stuck out most was watching how he looked at others. There was a sacred type of kindness in his eyes and sometimes he’d smile to himself or wipe a stray tear, even when no one was talking. His knew his days were numbered and he seemed to be drinking in every moment. Nothing was going to slip by him.
One of the last times we saw him, he told us he’d see us “on the other side of the mountain.”
I cried into a bag of Gardetto’s for much of that journey home.
I like to think of him on days like today when I’m sitting in the grass with my laptop on my lap, watching birds pick at the ground and feeling the ants crawl over my feet. Maybe he’s on the other side of some mountain doing the same thing, feeling the same wind blow across his shoulders. I’d like to think he is because he gave me so much during our short relationship. He gave me his time and attention without reservation. I forget to do that in daily life. I get so busy and caught up in projects that I have to remind myself to slow down and follow his example or I’m going to miss out on what’s important. My hope is you’ll do the same. Give and live your life fully in the small details. Be present and love without restrictions.
That’s is what true success feels like, and that is my dream for you.