2 b : favorable or desired outcome; also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
This weekend J and I went to a friend's party celebrating his recent American citizenship. Appropriately enough, while there I talked to another friend about a recent article on why American women still can't have it all. At the time I hadn't yet read the article, but when I read it the next day, my overwhelming thought was, "I'm not sure I want success if this is how it's defined and what it takes to get there."
Sometimes I am utterly content in my circumstances - thankful for the gift of three daughters, grateful to spend a large portion of my time teaching them, joyful preparing food they eat with delight. Other days, I wonder whether the things I do are a complete waste of time. Is anything I do going to have lasting impact? My daughters will not remember whether their laundry was clean on Wednesday, whether they ate fruit salad or fruit roll-ups for snack, how sine differs from cosine. After a decade as a parent, I've come to more or less accept this cyclical satisfaction/dissatisfaction. In some ways I even welcome it, since I tend to subscribe to the theory that the unexamined life really isn't worth living. If I'm not routinely questioning and evaluating what I'm doing, I'm probably not doing it right.
So I'm thankful for articles like the one in the Atlantic Monthly that make me think about whether I'm on the career and life track I want to be on. There was a time when I worked full time, traveled frequently and made a fair amount of money. I can remember being puzzled as my company threw more and more money at me any time I was unhappy. Yet I was never really unhappy about compensation - I wanted to do work that was engaging, interesting, enjoyable.
When I question my life's work now, it's not because I long for more interesting work to do. I worry more about what other people think about my choices than my own disillusionment. I have interesting work. I have engaging (if sometimes infuriating) subordinates. The pay's not great and the hours can be long, but the flexibility can't be beat. Perhaps most importantly, my current work affords me the time and space to pursue God and be pursued by Him in a way that I think would be difficult or impossible if I were still working full-time.
Since college, I've considered myself a feminist. I still do - though you likely wouldn't know it to look at the choices I've made with my life. But the fact remains that they were my choices - not an inevitable path I was forced to take. In addition to ending this article thinking that I wasn't sure I want success, I was struck by another thought - that I should let my daughters read the article. Because I don't necessarily want them to make the same choices I've made. Instead, I want them to make the choices that are right for them. I feel sure there will be both similarities and differences - we aren't the same people, after all.
What about you? Are you successful right now? Does the idea of success drive you to a large or small degree? How do you measure success?
I've decided to once again try to set aside what the world says success is and instead find my own way there. I'd like to chart a path to success that leads me closer and closer to who I really am, that gives me space to create, breathe, pray and play, that shows my daughters there is more than one way to any destination.