This I Believe

Diane - Reno, Nevada
Entered on December 6, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

Success: Feast on your life

I believe that success is not a level of achievement but a state of being.

The American culture showcases success in terms of social status, athletic ability, monetary worth and fame. Most Americans strive towards many of these goals especially to a level of monetary success which, to a certain extent, is necessary for survival. I suppose achieving this success is important, but it is not the true success worth striving for. True success is achieved when you fully embrace and “feast” on your own life.

As a young girl, I continually measured my self worth against that of others. My personal comparisons were not limited to those who were financially better off, but included those who were better educated, those with bodies similar to society’s ideals, the typical Barbie type, and those who were better liked. As a young woman, I set out to achieve what I perceived as success.

In my early twenties, I attended college studying journalism, went to work for a fortune 500 company, starved my body to attain the ideal Barbie image and longed for the perfect husband: handsome, educated, kind and with monetary means to support the lifestyle I wanted. If I measure and define success the American way, I could say that I was successful. And yet, my heart was still empty. I had followed the American dream: the influences of Gloria Steinem and my own June Cleaver mother prepared me to strive for it all. And, even better, everyone thought that I really did have it all; everyone except me. Looking back, my comparisons were only endless, ruthless judgments against myself.

Often we hear that people are like a book – they need to unfold. After opening the pages and unweaving me -the fiber that created the paper which everything was written upon, I can finally say I am successful. I no longer measure myself against others. Success today may be completing a college course in an effort to get into graduate school, or overcoming my fear of the black widows that seem to return each fall, hiking out of the ravine without having to stop to catch my breath or making peace with my deceased father. Success is being me, my authentic self.

Derek Walcott wrote a poem that resonates with me as success. In his poem, he states that:

The time will come

when, with elation,

you greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine, give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.