A reigning theme in my life for the past almost-five months has been success and its sometimes elusive meaning. The irony that my last blog post was about resolutions, goals, and the value of little moments does not escape me.
If you had asked me when I was sixteen, I might have told you that I planned on having a doctorate degree by the time I hit thirty. I expected I would eventually have an office with my name on the door. I expected to wear power suits, drive a ridiculous car, and kick life squarely in the ass. I was a mess on the inside but – by golly! – when I got the hell out of my shithole town, everything was going to be different. My classmates expected me to succeed, my teachers expected me to succeed, and most of all, I expected myself to succeed.
Obviously my definition of success was pretty superficial. I had no idea what it meant to be successful on the inside. While I’m aware of this now, sometimes I still hold myself up against the old superficial standard.
I am turning thirty in September. This imminent milestone has caused me no small amount of panic and self reflection. I think it is an understatement to say that my twenties did not go as planned. It’s unfair, however, to say that my twenties were a waste. Every blunder – every moment of unimaginable pain – lead me to freedom. Every time I said “I’ve had enough”, I was really saying “I AM enough”. Leaving my twenties, I have a clear sense of who I am as a person. I also have a loving and happy marriage. These two things, in and of themselves, make my twenties immeasurably valuable.
All of that being said, I must also acknowledge that knowing yourself can be a double edged sword. I have learned what I DO want and who I really am…but I have also realized how much time, energy, and money I have wasted on a career path I definitely DON’T want. I’m not going to lie…it stings. But sitting around beating myself up is unproductive. I must revert to looking for the positive. The bright side is that all the wasted tuition and all the wasted moments in positions I loathed brought me to this beautiful place of BECOMING. So now I can either sit around and tell myself a myth about being stuck or I can do something about it. I told myself the same tired myth for a long time until the Universe recently gave me a good smack on the head and said (affectionately) “Here, Stubborn Pants, THIS is why you’re not stuck”.
The specific message from the Universe doesn’t really matter; what matters is that a piece of information serendipitously popped up and I became suddenly aware that I DO have choices. The challenge from the Universe then became: “Are you brave enough to make a different choice? Or will you continue to tell yourself the myth of imprisonment? You always have liked the easy way”.
Touché, Universe. Touché.
I like to frame the Universe (coincidence, fate, serendipity, divine intervention…whatever you want to call it) as having a bit of an attitude. Why? Well, when someone or something says “You can’t do this, Autumn”, my natural reaction is to put two middle fingers in the air and say “Watch me”.
The old Autumn would now proceed to blather on about all of her grand plans. Growing, mature, dignified Autumn does not do that anymore. G.M.D. Autumn is thoughtful, cautious, and practical. G.M.D Autumn will quietly, un-obnoxiously explore her options and try to discern the best road for herself and her little family.
I owe this improved attitude to a recovery group I participated in for almost 8 months. It helped me break my pattern of jumping from one thing I hate to the next (all while expecting different results…see the definition of insanity). It brought to light my affinity for plowing into new ideas full force and then quitting.
Success is becoming less and less of an end and more of a means. It is a slow and plodding thing. It is never the vision I have in my head. When I examine life in retrospect, it usually ends up being more fun that way. It’s all a delightful, imperfect surprise.