When it comes to success, it seems like our culture has created this Hollywood formula of not only how to achieve it, but what it should mean. More or less, that you have to be incredibly good at something (if not the best), that you make a lot of money from it, and above all, you get everything that you want. It's fast, it's competitive, and it's all about getting to the top. Once you're at the top, you apparently have it all.
Yet in my own experiences, what we're told by the masses isn't always true. Success can, and often does have various different elements.
Throughout junior high and high school, there was always a part of me that felt I had to work a lot harder than everyone else. As selfish and egotistical as it sounds, it was mostly because of what I had to deal with both physically and emotionally. On top of that, it was as though all my friends were either reaching these big milestones and getting what their heart's desired: a driver's license, a boyfriend/girlfriend, grades and awards, etc. All of it left me scratching my head and wondering when my turn was going to come. I hardly ever talked about it because deep down I blamed it on what I could not control.
Which brings me to my first lesson: as cliche as it is, everything does have it's own time and it's own place. That was (and still is) an extremely tough one to grasp, because history and statistics and whatever constantly say that we're supposed to have done certain things by a certain age. Yet, everybody is on their own journey, with their own wants and needs, and their own history.
In order for me to stop comparing myself to other people, I needed to stop giving myself useless deadlines (i.e. I will do this or have that by a specific date or time). When one puts themselves on a race against the clock, it becomes less about the experience and more about just making it happen, no matter what. And one can only plan so much to where it actually works out exactly the way they want it to. It's important to be flexible and open to change when it presents itself.
But that doesn't mean that one should automatically point the finger at the divine whenever something doesn't go in the direction that they would like. It's important to stop and evaluate (or re-evaluate) yourself every once in a while, especially when you keep getting the same result and find yourself running around in circles.
With that being said, if you want to achieve something you have to have a vision for it. Looking back on my early teenage years, I think part of the reason why I always felt stuck in a rut was because I didn't have a lot of confidence and I constantly looked to the people in my life for reassurance. Despite what other people are going to say about it, deep down you know you truly are and what you're capable of. When somebody tells you that you can't, turn around and say "watch me!"
I don't like to look at success as getting everything that you want, because the reality is that what we want is not always what we need. And although a lot of celebrities and public figures seem to have the world at their fingertips, chances are that's not the case. The same is true for any friends and family members that look like they're living on easy street. Somewhere in some way, every person is struggling with something.
Rather, success can both evolve from doing what allows you have joy, and learning a life-changing lesson. Those types of achievement are the ones that stick the most because they tend to take a long time to understand and they don't necessarily happen right away. I would much rather succeed in this way then going by the "Hollywood Formula" because it's easy to get caught up in being at the top of the food chain. I like being somewhat in the middle and take my time getting there; it allows me to appreciate the journey, as well as the people that have come along for the ride.
It hasn't, nor will it ever be totally easy. This year in particular, there were plenty of moments where I thought it would be anything but successful; in general, I felt like I was moving one step forward, yet taking two steps backward. I cried a lot and frequently gave myself a hard time for the choices that I made.
Yet, failure is only failure if that's how you choose to look at it. In these last few weeks, learning about letting go of what is out of my control. When something bad happens, I don't spend my time trying to figure out the purpose behind it or where I'm going to go from that point on. I just ask God for peace and comfort in the situation and take everything one day at a time. Little by little, I have allowed myself to be vulnerable in group therapy and have been working on doing that with my loved ones.
Overall, I have succeeded in not giving up and not being completely and utterly perfect. And you know what? I happen to like it.
I am scared, but I am determined. I'm not certain, but I have faith. And I may be small, but I have big dreams and a big heart.
For anyone that's reading this, do me a favor and never give up on yourself. You might be in a lot of pain, but there is joy to be found. You might be frustrated, but be patient. No matter what you might face, just keep going!