What comes to mind when you hear the word success? For me it meant graduating from college, landing a decent job, and getting married. In the United States, success is mostly determined by financial status and acquiring material possessions.
From a young age, I bought into this so-called standard of success. One of my primary motivators was to make my family proud. I pushed myself to achieve certain milestones within a specific timeframe to include graduating from undergrad and getting married in my early twenties. Most of my life was spent checking off boxes on a list, to include attaining degrees and certifications in attempt to advance my career, rather than truly living and enjoying life.
Early in my career I had the opportunity to manage an intern one summer. We instantly bonded over our love of family and fashion. I scheduled weekly touch points for us to meet to discuss her workload and progression toward her objectives, as well as professional development opportunities. I admired her enthusiasm and willingness to take on new challenges. It was during this time she also shared with me that she looked up to me because I graduated from college, had a good job, and was married.
When I was going through my divorce I reflected on this conversation. At the time she had no clue I was in a job that was not aligned with my true passion and I was in an unhealthy relationship. What made things even more interesting was neither did I. I was caught up with going through the motions of life. I thought I was doing okay at the time because I was doing the right thing according to other people's terms rather than my own.
Last year, when I initiated my divorce after ten years of marriage, I surrendered the standard of success I chased after for so long. This included sacrificing the "picture perfect" life I worked hard to build. It was tough to leave it behind because for so many years it was all I ever aspired to have. Now I define success as being physically and mentally healthy, having meaningful and fulfilling connections with my family, friends, and acquaintances while exploring my personal interests.