When I was a kid, success meant scoring an extra hour before bedtime. Or a Pepsi on the weekend. In my teens, success meant a later curfew or not getting grounded when I broke said curfew (who me?). And in my 20s, when I finally realized that adulthood could no longer be avoided, success looked more like becoming a Broadway star, or writing a hit song, or signing with a major record label or even becoming a morning co-host at a hot radio station. These were my beacons, the shining lights that propelled me across the country more than once, into Nashville studios I couldn’t afford and ultimately to co-hosting the morning show at a hot radio station.
Once that happened (in my early 30s) success was defined in a more material currency. A custom-built house in the country. A zippy new car. Yearly trips to Europe to visit family and a sunshiny vacation every year. Some gold and some diamonds and money in the bank. Damn, we were a happening couple, my hubby and I.
When I divorced in my 40s I walked away from much of that and suddenly I was forced to redefine success. The custom-built house in the country became a townhouse in the city. The car was used and not exactly zippy, the vacations were fewer and farther between and the money in the bank considerably less. I even sold the gold and the diamonds.
So now, as I approach my dotage (with gratitude), I am once again assigning new criteria to the word success. Ready?
To me success now means “the opportunity to be sick.”
This past week I’ve had a cold. Not the flu and nothing too horrendous. Just a stuffy, snotty nose which led to a heavy chest, some coughing, a voice lower than most men and a whole lot of lethargy. And for me, the fact that I was able to endure this cold while nurturing myself with long naps, afternoons in bed reading and early nights going nowhere reminded me – resoundingly – how successful I am. I didn’t have to rush out to a job for fear the rent wouldn’t get paid if I didn’t. I didn’t have to wheeze and sneeze all over customers because my boss insisted I come in if I wasn’t dying. I didn’t have to take care of other human beings just because they are small and in need of care. I didn’t have to do anything except “work” on getting healthy again.
I’m very lucky, this I know. I do my job from home so can get it done in my pajamas if need be. My child is grown and on his own (but knows I am always available on the phone) so I am no longer daily at his beck and call. And now that my mother is gone, those frequent trips to her are no longer required. So I was sick and I got to stay home. For days. On end. Being sick. Trying to get better.
Oh the relief.
I also feel quite successful that I don’t have snow tires on my car. I do have all-season radials but it turns out when I bought my little used Kia it had been “souped up” by the previous (obviously fun) owner (hey, I too like going vroom vroom in my 8 year old car) and the cost of installing new rims and wheels and rubber and who knows what else – astronomical. I do not care. Because I never HAVE to go somewhere. So when it snows I stay home. Or I walk. Unless I’m sick. Then I stay home and crawl back into bed with a book.
Yep. I am a success.
And then there’s that trailer. I grew up with a cottage and always figured there would be a cottage in my future. But holy shit cottages are expensive. I mean, really fucking expensive. So guess what? I’m not getting one. What I do have is a trailer. A lovely trailer parked at my favourite place on this planet. In a trailer park. Surrounded by many other lovely trailer park people. Am I sad that it’s not a full-fledged cottage on it’s own leafy lot?
It is what it is where it is. And I am beyond thrilled.
Sure no one has published the book I wrote and I haven’t recorded all the albums I’d like to and I haven’t starred in one last Broadway musical and no one has actually paid me to interior design their home (yet). I don’t have a country house or a brand new car or gobs of money in the bank. But I am a success. Because when I’m sick or when it snows, I get to stay home. And you really can’t put a price-tag on that.
I’m not going to tell you to re-think your job or your life or your priorities. I am going to ask you to re-think your definition of success. Because it truly is the little things that count. And if you count yours, you may just discover that you are far more successful than you think.