Disclaimer: I wrote this several years ago in an attempt to catalog (no pun intended) my thoughts on being noteworthy and successful. I recently came across it in an old folder and found that it still resonates with me. As a person, I’ve changed a bit and have experienced numerous forms of life, but I still find value in these words, as they’re a reminder to continue striving for excellence in a way that adds meaning to your life personally, regardless of what social standards insist that way should be. It’s a solid example that even after years of growth (and failure), the ideas we’ve come across in our past can be illuminating reminders in our future. Hold close the words you write. They have the strength to pull you back to yourself from time to time.
There’s this semi-new thing happening in our society in which we all have to “be something.” I remember, as a little girl, thinking about how one day I’d grow up to be a college student, then a wife who left her degree behind to give birth and concern herself with folding t-shirts and making chicken stir-fry. I still believe all those things will transpire in my life, only there’s the addition of a successful career and meaningful hobbies… and flawless looks, because supposedly none of it matters unless you’re perfect at all things technical while looking effortlessly beautiful. It’s gotten to be a bit much.
Before I bash the evolution of the idealized person, I should clarify I strive for overall excellence. I want to be a respectable writer who is also talented at sewing and baking and manages to maintain the same hairstyle for more than 36 hours at a time. I want to see my dreams realized and have something tangible to catalog my life with. The only real issue is that I want these things on my terms, not because some social construct insisted this be the way to live. I can manage impressive displays of success on my own; I don’t need someone else to create a preset list of expectations for me.
I could sit here and list all of the celebrities and well-to-do people I believe have influenced this perceptible shift, but that would be unfair. Bottom line, schools are better than they used to be, jobs are harder to come by with just a mere Bachelors, and people are learning that art is transcendent of the canvass and/or Gibson. We’ve come a long way as a society, which I’m proud of. We have so much to show for our efforts and I think people are more well-rounded than they may have been in the past, given our felt need to become cultured in just about everything. Unfortunately, there’s an added weight to these personal goals.
It’s no longer an accomplishment to be perfect—it’s a standard. And if you fall short of that standard, someone will let you know—even if it’s in the form of a simple Facebook status passing as white noise while you watch your more expressively talented friends excel to unheard of levels of achievement and coinciding accolades, receiving egregious amounts of “Likes” when they post about being tired. But social networking is a whole other discussion…
I don’t want an idle society in which no one values the process of self-growth and success. I also don’t want a society where the minute, unimportant failures of the every man are regarded as loathsome and unacceptable. If you’re talented in multiple capacities and have legs for days and met with Leo last week for lunch, I support you and am honored to call you my peer. In the same vein, if you like reading Franzen after putting your child to bed and waiting for your husband to come home from his 9-5, then I support that, too.
It’s not about the amount of awards and pieces of paper with our names on it that make life worth living—it’s all the tiny nuances of who we are that make us happy and content and excited to wake up every morning. I’d rather feel successful internally than constantly strive for external praise that won’t sustain me for long.
Whatever path you choose, whether it be extravagant or low-key, walk it with dignity and self-assurance. “Being something” is a mindset, not an obligation.