Playing it safe isn’t a bad thing

For most of my life, I’ve tried to follow the standard path to “success” whatever that is. Study hard. Get into a good college. Make loyal and honest friends. Accept a well-paying job. Work on your career. Find a smart partner with numerous job prospects. As of now, these are the milestones I’ve been focusing on and is what is keeping me going. However, lately I’ve been wondering why hitting these milestones are even necessary, and why we put so much emphasis on them.

I’ve been a planner since I was little. What I mean by “planner” is someone who decides on what she wants and creates game plans on how to get it. This meant internalizing all the things a perfect first child should do to make their parents proud. As well, this meant that when things didn’t go to plan, I predictably had a slight melt-down and would once again modify the plan to accommodate the set-back. Then, continue on the same path.

Lately I’ve been living with someone who takes a more laisse-faire attitude towards life. Her perspective towards success both fascinates and irks me. This person doesn’t subscribe to the typical milestones that I set as life goals, so she lives in a very free and whimsical way, untied to any traditional idea of “a successful life”. This difference in definitions threw me off, because it made me further question my own idea of what makes someone successful. Is my idea of “success” a valid and personal one? Do I truly believe in it, or is it because my parents and society tells me that this is what you should want for a “good” life, the way to be “successful”. What do I want? Should I want these things? What are the pros and cons of each of these milestones? Why do we subscribe to them?

After many hours of mulling over these questions, I came to this conclusion (this might sound cliché, but perhaps every generation goes through these questions and comes to a similar conclusion).

I am in control of my own life. My happiness is purely in my own hands. My success is built on my own idea of success, which may or may not include a long career, a rich partner, or children, but if it does, it will be of my own accord. If I want any of these things, it’ll be because I deem them part of my happiness, not because of any parental or societal pressure. In the end, if I want something, I will go and get it myself. I am not patient enough to see if life gives me what I so desire. So, I shall create plans in order to achieve my success. Most importantly, I am happy on my journey. However, there are other forms of success, and it is in my best interest to accept and appreciate the other views of success, so I may continue to re-evaluate my own.

This semester has been a series of personal successes, gaining two research positions and doing well in my work. Hopefully my next mini meltdown doesn’t come until after the semester ends, but who knows. I hope to keep up the hard work, so wish me luck, as I pursue my own “success”.

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