Tag: success

essay, everything

Challenge the voices you hear

I read a few articles lately about people leaving their 9-to-5 jobs in order to live the life of their dreams. And it sounds like a good story. It makes me question for a minute: would I be happy if we were financially independent and self-employed in some creative task?

I think the answer is no. I enjoy having my husband’s predictable income, sending him to work five days a week, and having the safety of good benefits.

Some people like to take risks, but I don’t enjoy it much. I’m not afraid of it and I’m not limiting myself through my fear; I just prefer stability. It’s like when I go to a theme park and I feel pressured to ride the intense ride. Sometimes I do. And it’s okay, but I don’t enjoy it enough to actually pay money to go get motion sick.

I always wanted to be a writer, but in my adult life, I realized that I despise promoting myself. Which means that I would also hate being a successful writer.

I get caught up in what other people think is successful. It might be nice to go to nice schools and get high-paying jobs. It might be nice to travel all over the world. It might be nice to get a homestead and work from home. But just because someone else loves their life doesn’t mean I would love their life.

I have to be careful: I asked myself the other day if I wanted to pursue graduate school because I actually wanted to be in that environment or because I felt it would be prestigious. Did I want to tell other people I had a specific degree, or did I really want to actually get that degree?

I really enjoyed working as a legal secretary, even though it was a low-paying job that didn’t require many qualifications. I have to look at myself and what I want to do instead of just copying someone else’s success.

Being true to yourself sometimes that means abandoning dreams. Sometimes that means being completely normal and boring and eating vanilla ice cream because you like vanilla.

There are things that I know about myself: Money does not motivate me. I never want to be famous. I don’t enjoy taking huge risks. I like working on computers. I like spreadsheets and math and paperwork. I like being told what to do. I like teaching and I like creating as well.

Ultimately, I want to live in a way that helps other people in small and simple ways.

If that means my life is boring, then I’ll live a boring life.

essay

Balance of shame and pride

I’ve been happier lately, and part of the reason is because I stopped shaming myself for not being perfect. I dealt with a lot of shame in my life, feeling that I was never quite good enough: I never did enough when I was homeschooling. I never kept my house clean enough. I never balanced my computer time right. I watched too many videos. I didn’t go outside enough. I needed to get in better shape.

You know those voices. I’m getting better about not listening.

Because I realized that if I listened, then I wouldn’t improve at all. I would actually get worse. If I shamed myself for yelling, I would yell more. If I shamed myself for wasting time, I would often waste even more time. I would punish myself by continuing to do the activity that was causing me pain. It’s not helpful.

I still make many mistakes every day. But improvement does not come from shame; improvement comes when I look ahead and when I focus on the good things I can do and keep pressing forward. If I spend a day yelling and wasting time and hurting other people, then the best thing I can do is apologize, let it go, and do better.

Whenever my kids hurt each other, I don’t make them go sit in a corner so they feel bad. I tell them to make it right by hugging the other person and saying they are sorry. I don’t need them to feel ashamed of what they did; I just want them to learn how to do it right the next time.

In a way, we define what enough is. And enough for me is that I keep on trying, no matter how many mistakes I make. Being enough means that I’m not going to listen to the voices that say I always need to more; instead, I’m going to know that my messy efforts are worthwhile.

***

On the other hand, I tend to get really proud sometimes. I’ve been very privileged in some ways: I can learn quickly. I understand well. I can do a lot in a day.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m better than anyone else, or that the way I live is superior. I like to be on time; I like to keep my house clean; I like to have clean closets and minimal stuff. I like to plan in advance.

There are other people who are always late. They have messy closets and bursting schedules. They make quick decisions and they enjoy taking risks. And that’s awesome.

There are many different types of people and they are all important. I’m not better than someone else just because I know what derivatives are or I’ve read lots of books or whatever.

And someone isn’t better than me if they can run five miles or make homemade bread or they run their own business.

***

There is a balancing act in all of this: don’t be ashamed of who you are. Be confident, but don’t be proud. Celebrate others, give to them and love them. Don’t worry if you aren’t enough. Don’t be complacent and content without moving forward and improving.

I won’t ever be perfect. But I will keep trying.

essay

when life doesn’t go according to plan

There is this idea that you can set your goals and dreams and go for it and achieve them, but then there are thousands (or millions) of people who have a different reality: they have goals, they work towards them the absolute best they can, and then they fail.

A writer gets rejected, not just for one book, but for dozens of them.

A lawyer hopes to change the world and help people, but ends up working on messy divorces and collecting money.

A young college student wants to study mammals, but ends up studying insects and then getting stuck in a job as an underpaid lab assistant.

People get rejected constantly: they interview for jobs and then get the call a few days later that someone else was chosen. They apply to their favorite school and they don’t get in.

There are those dealing with even bigger problems: infertility, major health problems, death, tragedy, and so much more.

We don’t celebrate those moments. We don’t talk about the failure. We often hide it. We don’t see articles and books about people who have repeatedly dealt with disappointment without the eventual positive conclusion–in most stories, failure is merely a stepping stone on the pathway to eventual success.

But so many people don’t get that success and have to reframe their life and kill their dreams.

I am sort of tired reading about self-help books from successful people about how other people can be successful too. Because that’s not how the world works. We have humongous failures and mistakes in our life. We have persistent weaknesses and constant rejection.

And that’s just as human and real as those successes. And we need to talk about it more–and not just in a way where we keep encouraging people to keep going until they finally succeed, or we romanticize struggles with an inspiration moral at the end.

We need to embrace that there are average people doing average things and that is what makes the world work. For every major success, there are usually so many failures without any happy conclusions.

(I’ve probably written this exact same thing before, but I don’t mind repeating myself.)