How do I measure success? This question has plagued me for the last few years. At 32, I am not where I expected to be in life. I had a 5 year plan, a 10 year plan, goals and expectations. I thought I’d go on to a Masters, eventually a PHD. I thought I’d write books, that I would be recognized. As it is, I am 10 years past receiving my degree and just as long from being in a classroom. I haven’t worked in my field since the birth of my daughter 8 years ago, and the only time my degree comes close to being used is on a volunteer basis or as a sounding board for friends who moved on and were able to do what I coudn’t.
Over the years I have learned how to heal, I have battled with depression and learned how to manage it. I’ve managed an illness that kept me hardly functioning for the better part of a year. I have learned how to be a wife, how to be a mother. I have learned skills and ways of expressing myself. I’ve even managed to occasionally get paid for things I enjoy doing. Still, my husband and I are in the lowest tax bracket, and it’s hard to enjoy the time spent practicing my craft when I could be working, earing, helping to support our family. As much as can go on about the benefits of being a full time parent all of the things I am able to contribute – to my husband, our kids, our home and our friends – I struggle against the constant insecurity that it isn’t enough.
I’ve come to realize this insecurity comes from my opening question – how do I measure success? If it’s through degrees or professional accomplishments, I am doomed to always fail. If it’s in the form of finances then I feel some mix of guilt and hatred for myself that manifests as misdirected resentment for my husband for not bringing home enough. I have not travelled the globe, I have not made the world a better place, I have not been in the spotlight and applauded. Success has not been handed to me from an outside source, so how will I know when I have accomplished it?
I had to learn to let go of the expectations I had put on myself. I had to accept that I am not a woman who will have it all – a career and a family and a spotless home and a full social life. I will never be that person – and I no longer hold resentment for women who are able to have that life. For the first time in a long time I am content with my life – as it is. More than content, I feel proud of the things I have accomplished, proud of my choices, proud of the life I have created and the part I play in the lives of those around me. I measure success in the challenges I overcome, in the things that I learn, in the ways that I give, in the peace that I feel.