On Defining Success

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Over the holidays I ended up in Queens visiting my childhood friend and her husband, accompanied with my college roommate, who is now a seasoned Coloradan and conqueror of things like “mountains” and “bouldering” and “snow” and “going through the pass” and other outlandish things. These existences barely beg my attention in the newly inhabited flatish mid west, whose weather and culture is something like Baby Jane Hudson going through menopause. New York was a welcomed halfway home from Missouri’s abusive and temperamental weather, as a haven of constant wintery climate and the company of two of my dearest friends. Sometimes I have realized it just needs to be the small, stable things that keep me content, like weather and comradery. Yet, while safehoused in wool coats and outrageous squalls of laughter, there was something about the city that left me gloomy, as is my wont (I’m finally honest enough to raise a hand and announce: “Hello. My name is Bri and I’ve been moody for 23 years.”)

I remember by day two of the trip, after soaking up as much information as I could about what everyday life could look like in the city and observing a skeletal look at my friends’ new lives there, I recognized a dissonance in them and myself -and in my over simplistic mind, most city dwellers and myself for that matter. These people had goals. And dreams. And they were willing to work eighty hours a week for them! They loved walking and networking and doing whatever it took to live in a city that provided them the life they wanted. Even still, I pause to read that last sentence to double check my opposition with the listed. Maybe not everyone is cut out for a career that demands your soul eighty plus hours a week -okay, I can scratch that off. But what about walking, networking, and doing whatever it takes to live the life one wants? Besides a deep seeded love of sitting and a nasty desire to travel by way of Hover Round eating donut holes and drinking sweet tea, I am beginning to understand that the reason there is conflict between the City and I was because I don’t really know what my dreams are. This was so upsetting that I found myself in Central Park on New Year’s Eve supposed to be screaming with excitement, waving hello to my new friend, 2013, with thousands of others. Instead, I could hardly see the fireworks exploding on the horizon, my vision blurred with the frustrated tears of being surrounded by people I assumed had their crap together and knew what they stood for, who sang along, fists in the air:

“Some nights, I wish that this all would end,
‘Cause I could use some friends for a change,
And some nights, I’m scared you’ll forget me again,
Some nights, I always win, I always win,
But I still wake up, I still see your ghost,
Oh Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for oh,
What do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don’t know anymore”

I couldn’t even join in the song -an annoyingly catchy pop culture favorite now ruined by the ghoulish side effect of enlightenment, of suddenly making a bigger connection with the words outside singing off pitch every other line, “Whoa -oh-ohhh-oh! Whoa.” What do I stand for, Big Apple? “How did you know that cutting hair was the thing you were supposed to do?”, I turned earnestly to ask my hairdresser yesterday mid snip, augmenting my mid-winter hair cut a bit shorter than planned. Sometimes I just wish I could have a clear vision of my life -like Mary, mother of Christ. A scary but trustworthy celestial being appears to me and says, “This is what you do”. I have a passion to know God but it’s the application in life that I don’t know. How do I channel that passion in my skill sets? Why must the Meyers-Briggs be nothing but a spoke in my wheel as it educates and unlocks answers for others?

“Don’t worry about it -you’re still young and we’re making you look cute!” My hair dresser affirmed after noticing I had gone silent, overwhelmed by insecurity on the topic. I’m still young, yes, and thanks to Laura, she’s helping me look cute, as if that offered any real comfort. In some ways, I was that kid that thought I would die prematurely growing up. It’s awesome I get to be here and live life every day I wake up but it’s a burden to be older than I should and feeling like I might be missing something. I know eighth grade me would be horribly letdown at how little I know. Sometimes I fear the knowledge of a high form of passion is just as dangerous without application as it is without possessing the passion at all.

My problem in admitting this is that my life is filled with good people that live good lives, honoring the Lord with their minds and bodies, who have enough faith to just be committed to what God calls them to accomplish today yet I have to be that person who my aunt so quaintly coined as having “two legs in different boats” straddled between what I know and what I can’t help but wonder. And hear this: wondering is a beautifully raw element of being human but I can’t be consumed with unanswerables. I don’t want to grow into a person that refuses to acknowledge truth just because I’ve grown accustomed to the questions. There is something to be said for accomplishing the small things today with the hope that they unravel even if slowly, the path or passions of tomorrow, like so many of my loved ones do. I am learning a lesson in patience in the ordinary. Oswald Chambers says that, “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God: but we have not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things, to be holy in mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”

Maybe one day I will be cut out for New York but for now it remains an object lesson of redefining success in my life. How do you define success in your life?



  1. starbucksbuzz says

    So I happened across your blog and I hope you don’t mind me commenting… I know it’s been a while since we really had any contact. :) I had a bit of a life purpose crisis a while back. I felt like “success” was measured by how much I accomplished, and I had all these outlandish pipe dreams. Anyways I moved. I got a job, I was surprised that I felt fulfilled just working, and spending time with my husband and friends. To be honest I think success is whatever makes you feel whole, and it’s different for everyone. Don’t get me wrong I still have a couple pipe dreams, but they are pretty much things that have to just happen at some point if they’re going to, and I’m not defining my life by whether they happen or not.

  2. Kelly says

    I love reading your writing…and love that you have conversations with hairdresser Laura…and love you! Grateful for you and that you’re in Missouri :)

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