Anyone else remember the good old days when we were still growing up? Life was easy, expectations were manageable, the day to day was fun. I didn’t have to stress about being an adult, I dreamt about being an adult. Life would be perfect, the structure that I was so used to growing up would still apply, the expectations still as clear and achievable. Now, the growing up became grown up and I am finding myself stopping when I hear myself saying ‘when I grow up…’. The realization that I have grown up is staring me in the face but there is also a sense of emptiness, a sense of disappointment? It seems that the mantra of my parents, ‘study hard, make something out of yourself’ didn’t pan out! I studied well, got good grades, and at 31, I am working in a comfortable job, making comfortable pay, with a family of my own…except, everyone else is doing the same too! Even those who didn’t do so great in school…some where along the line, we all equalized?? Where was this promise of ‘making something out of myself’…what have I made myself? It seems, I am just another person, among billions of others, destined to live my life till the end. And with that I realized, wow, that was an empty promise! Now with kids of my own, should I be setting them up with the same empty promise?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think for a second that my parents misled me or purposefully lied to me. My parents did exactly what was expected of them from their parents and the same expectations came down to me. Only thing is, my generation completely changed the world!! And along the way, it changed the standards of success and happiness. Gone are the days when buying a home in the suburbs, owning two cars, and vacationing once a year was the epitome of achievement. My parents already did that, and now the expectation is the same for me? When was it enough to match what our parents did? I thought success was to go above and beyond and set a new goal? Honestly, growing up, that was the standard. I never heard a ‘keep it up, keep it the same’, I always heard ‘keep it up, I want to see better next time’. This expectation of beating myself all the time has been ingrained. Now, it’s no longer enough that I achieved my parents’ expectations of success, now I want to beat it.
And this is hard. Now the expectations are no longer set for, I have to set them myself, and the problem is, I never had to do this. Growing up, in school, at work, the expectations are always set by some governing power and I just had to follow. It was easy! Never had to think about it, just had to meet the expectations and I was considered ‘successful’. Now, having met these expectations, after going through the guilt of still not being happy (the happiness that I looked forward to while growing up), I have come to the realization that success until now was for others and not really for myself. I cannot consider myself successful because I never set my goal for how I want to measure my success.
I think it’s always stupid when we go against the grain, it’s always harder and I can understand why my parents stressed their view of success. I am now a parent and one thing is crystal clear – I want to make sure my children don’t struggle, that they are well taken care of. For this I am immensely grateful because I have my safe spot. With children of my own, gone is the time for when I can take risks without thought to consequences. This isn’t my reality anymore and I would be a failure as a parent if I risked the well-being of my child in my own personal journey.
And so, now, at 31, having achieved the traditional success, I am forced to realign myself. With two kids in tow, the responsibility of needing to give them a life that was better than mine, to set them up for a future that will not only achieve this traditional expectation of success but will also help them to understand how to define their own goals, is weighing down on me! I have to set the same goals my parents set for me but I cannot allow them to believe in the disillusioned thought that success can be achieved by any measure someone else sets for them.
While in any other setting, I would feel tremendously pressured, here and now, I feel excited! I am, for once in my life, truly braving the unknown, down a path that hasn’t been followed by anyone I know and I don’t know what to expect. It’s even more exciting because my kids can actually see and experience what it takes to go down this path. As I learn to work through the challenges, I hope that I can share with them how to keep going. There is no guarantee of success, no safe bets, no logical explanations for why I am moving away from this traditional success. I have only my intuition to follow, that if I succeeded in something I had absolutely no passion for, that if I persevered in climbing a mountain set in front me by someone else, believing that it was my mountain to climb, then perhaps, I can climb my own mountain, knowing i is the one which I want to climb. Anyway, I have started and I know that eventually I will end up somewhere…