What is Success?

Have you considered success? What does it look like?  …. and feel like?
Are you a successful person? … in your own eyes? … or in the eyes of others?

I was a member of the 1981 graduating class of Thomasville High School in Thomasville, Georgia.
Over the weekend, I attended my 30th high school reunion.

And I thought about success.

Friday’s events included a ride to Savannah for a day of fun on the river. Since I live two and a half hours from Savannah, I really didn’t want to make the five hour drive to Thomasville on Thursday … only to turn around Friday morn to drive six or so hours to Savannah and then return that night. I chose to stick around Thomasville and visit. As it turned out, there were several of us who were in town for the day on Friday. We had an absolutely wonderful time visiting and beginning the process of reuniting.

Our activities included the homecoming football pep rally at the gym.  That was fun! The cheer squad was huge, though the band and team appeared small in number and stature to this long-ago-graduated Senior. We got to watch the presentation of the 2011 Homecoming court and watch a skit played out just for the occasion.

We also had the chance to look around the high school Friday afternoon and again on Saturday morning. The current high school principal is one of our 1981 class mates. It was so odd to think of him as the principal … as he was once quite an instigator of mischief three decades ago. The little bit of interaction we saw between him and his students made it evident that he … does.not.play.  He’s firm and demands respect.  I’m betting he is an awesome principal.  I’m sure he would call himself a success … as would others … myself, included … and rightly so.

By Saturday morn, the school was quiet and empty. Only a few teachers were around to work on their own personal endeavors. Though the floor is now tile rather than the carpet that once helped absorb noise, the school felt the same to me. Chairs were perched on tables so that floors could be mopped and buffed for another week of activity.  Halls were still and empty.

This trophy case is filled with stories of success – in competitions of all sorts … ancient and recent.  I saw literary, chess and football trophies. There were awards for track, swimming and basketball, as well.

I am so comfortable in my skin these days. I can honestly say that I have done my best … or as close to it as I was able at the time … in most areas of my life. But, to others, I wonder if I am a success … for I am a woman divorced after a twenty-five year attempt at marriage. I am not exceptionally externally beautiful nor fit and thin. My two grown kids are living at home … both on breaks from college. I am not yet employed after graduating from school … with a second AA degree. If I look at “me” through this lens, I certainly don’t appear to be a “success.”

As I walked through the halls of school, this banner
hanging in the entrance of hallway off the lunch room
ruffled my feathers.

But, then I stopped to think about it. This banner is appropriate at a school, where grades influence life. Grades say you’re a hard worker. Grades reflect intelligence. Grades and test scores are of the utmost importance … and so they must be measured and used as a guide. In this way, success is measured in results.

But, in real life, this is not so. In everyday life …
to be emotionally healthy, we must ask
if we are giving our best
regardless of everyone elses standards and guidelines … for
Success is not measured in results, but in effort.

For the child with a social disability,
getting through the day with only three meltdowns can be a triumph.
For the alcoholic,
success is making it to lunch without giving in to the lure of vodka.
For the female with an eating disorder,
driving by the Krispy Kreme without stopping is a triumph
OR forcing yourself to eat when you WANT to starve is gain.
For the porn addict,
installing and not overriding an internet screening filter is HUGE.
For the new mom who struggles with postpartum depression,
keeping the diapers changed and taking a shower before 5pm is a victory.

Three meltdowns and a shower don’t l.o.o.k like a success,
but they are … for some.
They required great effort.

We had several classmates who told stories of tremendous difficulty in recent years.
On the outside, they might not have appeared successful (myself included) ….
but … oh, the tremendous effort it must have taken to attend the reunion.
And I was so proud of them for coming … I rejoiced that they were brave to come
It was wonderful to see them.

Me?  I am more fit than I have been in years, my kids are wonderful, healthy and beautiful, and I just graduated from college with a degree in an area that motivates me with passion. I am divorced, yes. But, I am also FREE!! I love myself through and through and am completely comfortable in my own skin. I AM a success.

I wonder about you? Do you see yourself as a success? If you have been through struggles, don’t let someone else’s standard of “success” be your rule of measure. Even if you have failed, let today be the first day of a new beginning. Do your best today … this morning … this moment. Take your life one step at a time. Don’t compare yourself to others. Ask God to give you strength to be the best that YOU can be – today … right where you are. And know that you have the potential to be a success …
right where you are right now …
simply by giving the effort.
Because success is not measured in results,
but in effort.


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