Defining ‘Success’

In this tough economy, my friends and I are having a pretty rough time trying to find a decent job. I recently lost my job and have been plagued with constant worry and stress, hoping that I’ll find something soon, that will pay my bills and give me the time I need off for holidays and internship duties. Scouring sites like Craigslist and Monster is useless; everywhere you look, they want at least two years of a certain experience (How do you get the experience if no one will hire you- that’s the question). For the past week, I went around to different restaurants, bars and coffee shops within walking distance of my house and the university, thinking that these places would be the easiest places to find employment. Look at your average bar. The female servers were always getting hit on by men with odd mustaches and never getting the tips they think they deserve. It would be a piece of cake finding a paying job in those environments. But, unfortunately, I received no call backs.

I went to a friend’s to complain about the job hunt and we begin talking about success and what it meant to be successful in today’s time and place. In today’s Europe and Latin and South Americas, college students continue to live with their parents, where they save money until they feel the desire to move out. Here, in the United States, most feel the parental push to get out of the house at the age of 18.  Despite there being a lot of mature 18 year-olds out there, not everyone is ready to face the challenges of the college community/the “real word” and we continuously face small struggles until we finally “make it”/become successful.

But what does it mean to be successful? Is it having a ton of money, a designer car and living in a brand-new condo? Does it mean proving to others that you are independent? Does your state of happiness or depressed anxiety have any part to do with it?  What about being truly proud of your accomplishments? And how should this success be shared? With your boyfriend, girlfriend or significant other? With your close friends or family? With your business peers or fans? The term, “success” is so vague and abstract, letting whoever to interrupt it as whatever they wish to. We must remember, though, everyone does have their own opinions of what success is and how they choose to apply it to their life and goals. We should applaud each other when we achieve our own personal versions of success and support each other with love and encouragement until we reach that point.  We must not judge one another and our choices, even if those ideas are crazy (like dropping out of school); but let us save that judgment talk for another time.

Carpe Diem

One of my law school friends carries around a laundry list of things to get done within the week. He tells me of the joy his heart receives when he crosses off each item on the list and adds another task to achieve. I started making lists I as I got busier and busier with school; my planner chocked full of homework assignments, work schedules and lunch dates with friends. I write down the details of school work, quotes I overheard and liked and lyrics to songs I couldn’t get out of my head. Sometimes I would write so much inside of my planner, a week’s worth of pages would be covered with things I wanted to get done in a single day (and with a bit of luck and no sleep, I managed to get them done). And as I did cross everything off, I felt a great feeling of satisfaction. I was getting things done. I was seizing the moment.

My life is no longer that hectic. Most days are spent looking for a decent paying job with benefits or pining away for a certain pair of booties on the YSL website. The homework load is quietly decreasing and I am left what seems like hours upon hours of free time. Doing things like catching up with missed HBO dramas and teaching myself how to read for pleasure once more are great ways to pass the time, but soon I would drift off into sleep from being so lethargic  and lifeless on the couch. What has happened to that long list of forthcoming work events and get-togethers? What happened to seizing the moment and grasping every second of its life?

Sometimes, even with the frantic happenings in our lives, we could be doing more. Thus, I have restored back to making lists and filling my day from my early AM cup of coffee to my late night nightcap with activity. Sure, scrubbing the tile in my bathroom doesn’t exactly scream, Carpe Diem, but I am filling my life with stories to tell (like the mouse poo I found behind the toilet) and adventures to relive in my head (as when asking out a charming bartender and having him say, yes). May you live all the days of your life.

The Question

Some interesting questions arose while I was fixing out a kink in my consistently changing life plan this past week. Like all college students finishing up their last couple of semesters, I have been bombarded with the age-old question: “What are you going to do after you graduate?” I quickly have taught myself to react with a smile and to simply reply with an “I don’t know.”

With each passing year, the question becomes more and more frequent. We hear it from peers and professors, our family and even random strangers. I have a dear friend who refuses to talk to certain family members in order to avoid the question altogether. But that question is something not to be avoided. We all are eventually going to leave school and the college community (unless you have the goal of becoming a professor- then, you are brave). We will all fall under that societal stereotype and find that life-long career. Most of us will marry. Some will divorce. We’ll have children and then grandchildren and grow old on the porches of Victorian- style house or at nursing homes. We all will just fade out and become that little number tally marked by the Census Bureau every ten years, moving down each age brackets: 20-25, 26-30, 31-35, et cetera,  et cetera.

Thus, that question leads me to two more questions. If we are expected to follow that stereotypical norm (and I am under the assumption that we are, since we are going to college, which could be considered as the next step in society’s plan), why are constantly asked of our plans after school? Is it just people being polite? Or them trying to make small talk? And if we are aware of what is expected and is to become of our futures, why are we in a constant fear of the question?

Looking at my friends who have graduated and have found a job and living out their own individual dreams, I try not to focus on the question or even the questions. Instead of avoiding them, I think about the day-by-day goals I will eventually achieve and the stories that I will one day have the opportunity to share with others. And for when people ask me the dreaded question, I still smile, to reply with, “I’m going to do something.”