I Believe In True Success

Erin - Beavercreek, Ohio
Entered on January 23, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

As a high school senior, I have recently delved into the ever-stressful process of applying to colleges. Like any other seventeen-year-old in my shoes, I am constantly posed with the question, “what are you going to do with your life?” Time and time again, I hesitate to answer. I am fascinated with foreign cultures and often reply, “international relations… I’ll probably be a journalist or something.” But when I face myself with the age-old question, “what will you do with your life?” my answer is not precise. I do not wish to be a journalist, teacher, ballerina, astronaut… I just want to live a life that helps others. I want to assist in the freedom of the oppressed and the termination of our world’s injustice. Where can I sign up for that college major?

I have recently been accepted to three colleges, one of which is a prestigious journalism school. When I approached my mother this afternoon and announced, “I don’t want to be a journalist. I want to work in the Peace Corps or get involved with volunteering in impoverished countries. I just want to help people.” She looked up at me and replied, “You won’t make a lot of money doing that.”

Taken aback, I questioned her response. How could my mother not agree that a selfless life was more important than a financially successful one? Back and forth we debated, until with a heavy heart and a lump in my throat, I left the room.

People have always told me that I am maternal. I have a love for people and I feel that I owe that trait to my mom. A mother of five and a friend to everyone she meets, I have spent my entire life watching my mother befriend and care for most everyone she encounters. Never ceasing in her affection, she opens her arms, home, and heart to everyone, especially the hurting and broken. I hope to someday be as good of a mother as the one that I have.

It was difficult for me to listen to my mother try and convince me to pick a different path. “You’ll have to support a family… saving children in Africa won’t make you enough money… Be realistic.” I was shocked to find that this was my mother’s idea of success: financial stability. I did not expect this to come from the very person from whom I model my compassion.

As I walked out of the room, I began to question what I thought I knew was success. Is it what my parents, teachers, schools, the television, the nation has been telling me? A good education, some college degrees, a stable job, and wealth? I do not think so.

Years of striving in school and activities flooded my mind. I have put so much time and effort into being a good student, and I think I have subconsciously been battling with my siblings for my parents’ approval and affirmation. I want to be successful in the eyes of my parents. But what if my parents’ idea of success isn’t right? What if this success I’ve been striving for isn’t the only true success?

My life is worth something. And so are the lives of the sick, the imprisoned, the malnourished, the orphaned, and the broken. I believe that a successful life is one that is utilized in such a way that weight is lifted from another’s shoulders. That freedom is pronounced and oppression is alleviated. I may not be wealthy, but if I live a life that has helped bring a glimpse of justice to our world, then I will know I lived a rewarding, successful life. This I believe.