I have had a variety of perceptions of success throughout my life. I’ve thought of it as getting straight-As, graduating college, owning a business, having a lot of money, and just about every other cliché that you can think of. From the ages of 10 to 12, I thought you had to be famous to be successful. I thought that if I didn’t land myself a role as an actress on a show like iCarly or Victorious as soon as possible, then I could never be successful. Now, thankfully, I realize that this is not true. As a matter of fact, I’ve realized two things about success: it’s up to me to define it for myself, and I don’t have a time limit to achieve my goals.
I had two major misconceptions of success, in the process of coming to define it the way I do now. The “be famous and talented” idea left me pretty early on. I’ve also thought, though, that success should be reached at a young age to be valid. The idea that I must be young to be successful still lingers a bit. I look at media coverage of all these late teens and young adults that have accomplished some of their biggest goals, and I feel like I’m not accomplishing mine quickly enough. I almost can’t help but compare myself to these young, televised success stories.
Billie Eilish, for example, is only 17, yet she has been regarded as the savior of rock music by sources like The New York Times and artists like Dave Grohl. Similarly, Lorde gained a great deal of attention in 2013, when she debuted as a singer at the age of 16. Although I actively try to tell myself that I have more than just my twenties to make something of myself, it has become an on-and-off part of my definition of success to achieve everything I want to as quickly as possible. That way, I have more time to make more goals for myself, and I’ll accomplish even more in my lifetime — including things I may not have even thought of.
I’m not alone in this. Fourth-year Emi Eastman said, “Success, to me, means reaching a point in life where I’m content with my contribution to the well-being of everyone else.” My follow-up question, regarding whether or not she could be successful in her twenties, was received, at first, with a panicked laugh and a playful thanks for reminding her that she’s already twenty-one. However, she was positive in her reply, and said, “I can definitely make moves to work towards that goal, but I think that success is a lifetime process. You never want to be in a place where you feel like you’ve finished everything in life and you’ve accomplished everything; there’s always a new goal, something [else] you can reach for.”
Doesn’t that mean you’ll never truly reach success? Eastman does not think so. “Being successful isn’t an end goal; it’s about a constant improvement [of] yourself,” said Eastman. I agree with her, in a way. I believe constantly improving leads to an overall successful life, but I also believe that small achievements build a bigger feeling of accomplishment.
As much as I would like to, I don’t yet feel as though I am successful. I’m a first-year in college, well on my way to success. I can say I have achieved many things: graduating high school, making it into college, surviving my first semester and even escaping with grades no lower than a B. In that way, I have grasped at a bit of the success I hope to attain one day.
Overall, though, I’m not where I want to be. When I’m on an airplane to some country I’ve never been to before, and I’ve got at least three languages bouncing around fluently in my head, I’ll call myself successful. When I’m holding a book I wrote, handing a free copy to my mother, I’ll call myself successful again. Will I still be in my twenties when that time comes? I think if I work hard enough, I will be.