Career Development, Personal Development

For What Is Man, If Not Himself?

To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
No, oh no, not me,
I did it my way.

Frank Sinatra, “My Way”

Samantha Jane (flickr)

I was going to write a blog post about patience — about how I’ve had to practice it figuratively through the turmoil that is this quarter-life and literally, while sitting in an airport for 12 hours. But then I started remembering what I felt like sitting in that airport, being on my own. I was calm. Amazingly calm. And as I sat and waited, I had a chance to revel in the solitude of being on one’s own, and I remember feeling a strange sense of serenity in that thought.

I didn’t know then that I had everything I needed, I didn’t know how good self-reliance could feel, and I certainly didn’t know that what I was doing was in any way indicative of personal success.

This morning, as I sat down to write that blog post, I turned to look out the window, at the snow-covered branches beyond the four walls of my office, lost in thought, trying to formulate my ideas. And I remembered walking around the airport, remembered that feeling of calm, of pride. In that instant, I was able to see how far I’ve really come; in that moment, I saw the summation. And I realized this to be true: I am really freaking proud of my life.

If I had a rooftop to shout it from, I would. If years of grammar didn’t instill in me rules of punctuation, I would end that sentence with a thousand exclamation marks. It’s a powerful, overwhelming, gratifying feeling. And it’s about time.

Months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say that. Months ago, I would have found myself a little despairing, comparing myself to childhood friends and professional peers and wondering when my turn would come: She’s in publishing; that’s where I dream of being. He’s the president of a company; I wish I could own my own business. She’s married and starting a family; I wonder when I’ll find love again…

Those are thoughts that, admittedly, I still sometimes contend with, yet there is something different in me, something changing, something growing. It’s a little bit of awareness, knowing that success comes from within yourself; it’s a little bit of pride, knowing that I’ve yet come so far; and it’s a little bit of hope, knowing that I’m still so young, that I still have so much in store.

Success comes from respect, from self-pride, from building something of your own and making it work for you. Success comes from connecting with others, finding a passion, and embracing opportunity. Without realizing it, I’ve held success in my hands, within myself, all along.

I don’t have my dream job yet, and I’m not ready to start a family. In time, perhaps I’ll be able to label those as my successes. But now, in this moment, I can feel proud at what my life has brought me thus far and look forward to the new opportunities that emerge. Now, in this moment, I can acknowledge that I’ve exceeded my expectations for myself, expectations of which I hadn’t even been aware.

So maybe this post is really about patience, in the end. Success doesn’t have to be a race. I can take my time; I can go at my own pace because the only contender is myself, my own high expectations. I know that I’ll get to where I’m going, wherever I’m meant to be, but first I need to appreciate where I’ve been; I need to enjoy the journey.

Success is relative. The best part is that it changes with you.

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