My mother almost always woke up around 3:30 in the morning to start her day. The house, no, the neighborhood was usually quiet at that time. That never changed. She wrote letters, started breakfast, and took her time to get ready. Once we bought our very first computer — this was in 1999 — her routine changed slightly to writing emails, starting breakfast, and taking her time to get ready for work. She used to say, “There’s nothing more exciting than waking up to find that you’re up before anyone.” That was almost 5 years ago.
She passed away after she broke her neck and back in a tragic car accident on the corner of our street. She had left our apartment at 6 AM, before my father, my sister, and I were up, to get to her place of work early. The accident was quite tragic in that my mother was conscious throughout the entire ordeal: She realized she wasn’t going to make it, and so, she was leaving her family behind, and she knew the couple that had crashed into her small Volkswagen Jetta had died. Our family, by losing our mother, lost direction; that is, she was the captain, and we, as the passengers, left to the paralyzingly tumultuous forces that crept around us after her death.
My mother is one, I suppose you could call an “overachieving” woman. She was a mother. She was a wife. She was part of the neighborhood council. She was on her way to becoming the first female superintendent of our school district. She was independent, fierce, strong, sensitive, loving. She overcame all obstacles thrown at her face, and succeeded — or was on her way to true “success.” To her, success was always there, just within her reach, but always out of grasp, but she was there, she knew she was going to get it.
I’ve heard people call successful women, or women in the process of obtaining “success” as delusional, or that women won’t succeed in a man’s world, that there is a glass ceiling which prevents women from advancing further in their career. I counter with this: Success isn’t determined by men or women, but by the individual. You see, my mother didn’t need someone else to tell her that she was successful, that she had gone above and beyond social expectations. She knew she was an “overachiever” — she was (and still is) an overachiever in every sense of the word. She wore that “label” with pride. “Better to be overachieving than underachieving,” she wrote in her journal. Her energy and attitude was the energy that kept us going. And in a way, she became more than an “overachieving woman,” but an incredible role model as well.
It seems as if contemporary society has tacked on a negative connotation on “overachievers.” That they are to be sneered at for their industriousness and aptitude, and more so if they are women. To this, I say — while channeling my mother — continue on your pursuit of success and go absolutely beyond of what is expected of you. No one will find more joy in your success than yourself, and that’s just how it’s going to be.