Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what constitutes a successful life as I’ve worked on the way I see the world. For example, I used to immerse myself 150 percent into my newspaper job when I lived in another state, working from morning until late night while my kids were small.
I definitely made a name for myself, but at what cost when I barely saw my family. As luck would have it, a set of circumstances later allowed me to return to Massachusetts and work from home for a great paper. Now, I’m with my teenager and young adult at a time when I feel they need me more. I consider that to be a tremendous success.
For others, being successful really runs the gamut. Is it getting the big job, buying the big house, or listening to the happy ca-chings as hefty paychecks clank into the bank? Or is it achieving fame, landing the right husband or wife, or having adorable, precocious children? Can it be as basic as learning to work a stick shift or conquering a complicated recipe?
Some people see success as being able to open their eyes every morning for another day of life while struggling with a disease. Or, to be able to smile and laugh for the first time in a while after winning a fight with depression.
I was at a high-school graduation ceremony the other night where success for a pair of twin sisters with cerebral palsy was being able to stand from their wheelchairs and walk to receive their diplomas. Twenty steps made the difference after months of practice, and years of dreams.
When I was younger, I watched my mother and father measure success in simple things. They both did exceptionally well in their chosen fields, yes, but they also excelled at being good friends, sharing their talents with us and others, and still being there when we needed them.
Making a professional impact is still important to me, Lord knows. I no longer wear a suit to work but I still put in the hours, and then some. But today I seek balance and strive to fit my work in around my life, even if it means I’m still writing at midnight.
I have found that I can nurture a marriage and my writing life, raise good children and, hopefully, perfect tomatoes, without sacrificing any of life’s responsibilities and pleasures for the other, in the name of success.
I’m glad I’ve had the chance to get myself on the right track. It certainly came with a price, make no mistake — and isn’t always easy to juggle everything I have to do — but for the first time in a long time I feel like the kind of success that’s right for me is within reach. No amount of cash or acclaim can match that.