What I Do Has Meaning and Value, and That’s My Definition of Success
I was recently browsing social media when I randomly clicked on a suggested article titled “34 Things You Need to Give Up to Be Successful.” As an entrepreneur, I get lots of suggested links to articles about success in business and life.
I reflected upon what I had just read. I thought it was well-researched and well-intentioned, but it also left me a bit unsettled. Something didn’t feel right about blindly following a list that supposedly would tell me how to achieve success.
As a kid, I was a high achiever. I was recognized as a “gifted child” in my early years, having sped through my developmental milestones as a toddler and preschooler. Growing up, I learned to define success in terms of the number of perfect scores I received on school exams, the merit certificates I obtained, and the medals I wore around my neck.
Then I entered a specialized science high school and was thrust into a sea of fellow achievers. For the first time in my life, I felt like I might drown.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so special anymore. I was no longer the best. And even in the areas where I did happen to be one of the best, I didn’t feel appreciated. That’s when I started to question the meaning of success, because if I continued to define it the way I did in my earlier years, then I would be a total failure now.
As I grew up, I began to have more encounters with failure: failure to submit school requirements, failure to graduate from college on time, and failure to satisfy other people.
I met my husband, Jared, during my fourth year in college. He was far from the “ideal person” I had been taught to seek. We were taught that such a person should be intelligent, wealthy, and in good health. Meanwhile, Jared was my intellectual equal, but his hemophilia and seizure disorder raised questions from people who were responsible for teaching me.
That part was understandable: His chronic illnesses were like a lingering question mark in our lives. And when success is often equated with certainty, question marks are frowned upon.
If Jared and I were to stick together for life, that meant I had to accept his chronic illnesses the same way that he had to accept me for who I am in my totality — personality quirks, mental disorder, and all. And accepting his chronic illnesses meant accepting his limitations and knowing there were some things he couldn’t do for me.
When Jared and I got married two years ago, I was fully aware of the risks and compromises that come with having a nontraditional union. But even though our life situations are unusual, our marriage doesn’t have to be doomed.
I’ve realized lately that success looks different to everyone. Many define success as having a lot of money, but now I realize that on a deeper level, money is simply an enabler. It allows you to obtain things that will sustain and help you feel fulfilled in life.
We’ve made increasing our income one of our biggest goals, because the reality is that Jared needs medication, and I deal with my mental health struggles through hobbies, which also require money.
To some, success means working hard and never wasting a moment. But to Jared and me, it means living a balanced life and having time to spend with each other and our daughter. In this sense, I feel I am on the way to becoming successful, because we are intentionally trying to make this arrangement work.
At the end of the day, what matters is that I did something meaningful. And for as long as I manage to enrich my husband’s and daughter’s lives, I feel that what I do has meaning and value.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.