I’m obsessed with a song called, “Happy” by Pharell. It’s off of the “Despicable Me 2” soundtrack.
I heard it and saw the video for the very first time over at my parents on Thanksgiving. I instantly fell in love with it. Like you listen, and it does make you happy. You want to dance. And Pharell sounds really good!
It’s crazy, because I’ve been in conversations with people lately about success and some people’s answers disturbed me.
One guy asked me what I thought success was. He said, “What, you want a big house in Bowie, don’t you?”
I told him, big house or small house, I want it to be a place that feels warm and feels like love and feels like home.
I’ve known people with too much house and just delinquent and deficient in love.
I’ve known people with studio apartments that were filled with joy.
When I was a kid, my little mind told me success was being rich and famous.
When I was a teenager, success was getting good grades, getting into college, passing my driver’s test and straight up independence and having my own pocket change.
I got to college, and the hill got steeper. Success was completing my degree and then gulp, actually getting a job in the field I spent the last four years studying.
After college, it was getting the job and working my way up. Where up was, it was supposed to be a large newspaper or magazine, where I became the editor, and had a nice office and being able to walk into a room and people be impressed by me.
I’m 31. I became a reporter, I became an editor. I live independently and I’ve got a list of things to complain about, but at the same time I know I’m blessed. I recognize it every day. But the biggest thing I learned this year is that dreams change, definitions of success change and that what? It’s actually ok. You didn’t abandon who you are, instead you are listening and listening more carefully.
I think there’s a big difference in people who haven’t found themselves and switch jobs every six months. You have to be grown and responsible. But if you take certain other risks, and you were a doctor for 10 years and decide you want to fly planes or build furniture, and you’d been taking lessons for a while and loved how you felt in the air, and long for that feeling when you see your patients or on weekends people admired a table you build, then why the hell not? The seeds had been planted. This may in fact, be who you are.
I’ve seen my friends and my family and other folks go through a number of life changes. Some folks got married, got divorced, had babies, lost loved ones, buy homes, launch businesses, go back to school and change ish up completely. I’ve seen people leave behind “dream jobs” to find peace of mind. I’ve seen people up and leave the country to seek themselves and new adventures.
I’ve seen friends on Facebook who I’ve gone to high school with defend being stay-at-home mothers and say it’s the best thing they’ve ever done.
I’ve seen friends on Facebook climb the ladder, gaining big promotions and going on lavish trips.
Who is the most successful of the two?
If both are happy with their lives as they are, right now, then both of them are. No contest.
We cannot define or dictate success to anyone else but ourselves.
There are a few people me and my friends joke about and sometimes say not so nice things about in terms of their life choices and where they are today. And one day, I asked a friend if the person we dogged so much was actually more free than any of us. My friend thought I was joking, but I wasn’t.
We considered him a loser for a number of reasons, and he kind of is. But if he is genuinely happy with his life, by my definition, he may very well be successful. It’s not up to me.
The older I get, the more I hate folks who aren’t genuine, and who are stuck on appearances and material things. You’ve read the blog. I love clothes and I swear before the good Lord, if I managed to increase my earnings, I would shop at high-end stores. I just would.
But at the same time, over and over, I’ve heard from friends who “seemed” to have it all complain over and over, that those bags and shoes and houses weren’t all they were cracked up to be, or they were still unhappy because they weren’t in a relationship, or they didn’t have kids, or someone they know on Facebook appears to be doing better than them.
If you are lucky, you can learn how to think for yourself. It’s not always easy. And maybe my risk-taking, bleeding heart, creative friends, and not growing up rich, but with a lot of love, makes it a bit easier to see the world this way.
Lately, I’ve had a really big desire to live my life fully, beyond the illusion, to seek beauty and wisdom and knowledge. I don’t want to be trapped in my thinking, or in my living. We have this huge gift of life and just one and the ability to love and feel and be.
There are moments I just want to be a hippie making music and art and love and to not worry about anything else. I want to sit in a cabin and drink tea and write or design tee shirts.
Then there are moments I want to be an academic, speaking and giving lectures. I want to pour over documents and find connections and be a part of some major think tank and lead thought to societal problems.
There are times I want to cook, and let the sweet smells fill my house and fill people’s bellies. I want to set beautiful tables and burn sweet smelling oils and drink from beautiful wine glasses with the people I love, well-dressed, healthy and happy.
There are times I want to be someplace beautiful on the other side of the world and be amazed by its wonder and let my mind wander. I want to be in crystal blue water, floating on my back and letting the sun warm my face and just look up at the sky.
The idealist in me is mad there is racism, and classism, and that smart, poor people may not ever get a chance to rise from their circumstances.
The older I get, and the more I think I’ve changed, the more I realize all of these things, these moments where I want to be those various things, that’s all me. It’s all of me. And I don’t have to be just one of them. And I can’t be. I’ll never be.
I told someone success is living the way you want to live with peace of mind despite outside forces. Success is understanding your power and beauty and what it is you bring to the world and having the humility to know you are such a tiny piece of the puzzle, but still essential to it.
When you know all of those things and you understand it, that’s huge.
When the stay at home mom says she has the most important job on the planet, I can’t knock it if that’s what she knows to be true in her heart. Same thing for a cop, the president, a baker, a butcher, candle stick maker, crossing guard, or teacher or grave digger or janitor or the CEO of Walmart (well that’s controversial) but still. Honestly, I want most of the people doing any job to all feel like it is important and bring pride to it.
Success is being able to sleep at night, knowing you did everything you could that day. Me and my boy talked once about what we would want people to say about us when we died. I hate the thought of dying. It scares me. It really does. But I did say this.
I want people to say that I was real, that I was genuine and that when I loved people, I meant it and I told them so and I showed them. I want people to say that I was funny and silly and gave what I could, whenever I could. I want people to say I was creative and loved creativity and being inspired by art and music and that to me nothing is greater than creative expression except God, who is the ultimate creator. He made the creative process so powerful on purpose, I believe to give us a glimpse on a micro-ist of micro levels to see what it’s like to be like Him. Watch any great singer or dancer or artist work. You can’t tell me it isn’t spiritual the place they go, the way they give themselves up. I want people to say I was appreciative and grateful, and gracious, and classy, and kind of mischevious, but I still had high expectations. I want people to say I believed in thinking and growing and learning and education and access and exposure.
Weird way to end. But that’s how I felt. Thanks for sticking till the end.