To me, being successful means...
Balancing building for my future with enjoying my life today.
My definition of success has changed over time.
I am a rule follower. Always have been. Give me the rules of the game and I'll figure out how to win. That was a great strategy when I was growing up and in the Palo Alto schools, and I was really successful at [high school]. I got mostly A's, won school elections, was captain of the cheer team, etc, etc... I was working like crazy, but I was loving it, and I had plenty of energy. I was winning. I was succeeding. All the people around me told me so.
The world got broader... I went to a really large University where I felt like I suddenly was swallowed up - I felt mediocre, average and forgotten. In truth, I was none of those things, but I had trained myself to seek approval from the outside, from "winning the game", and it was hard for me to see myself as successful if I wasn't doing that, daily. I became self-destructive in my own way. I developed an eating disorder, I drank too much - I really didn't know how to find my place.
I still did very well in school and I landed my dream job in a large corporation and set myself to learning the rules of that game and winning it. And I did that successfully for many years. But it took more and more from me - I was exhausted. And life was happening. I ended up in a bad marriage with an addict and I found myself afraid to leave and be seen as having "failed." I became a mom of 2 - the best thing that has ever happened, but any parent will tell you that kids are a lot of work. Trying to hold my life together as a mom of two young kids, in a marriage that was disintegrating, while climbing the corporate ladder was too much. I found myself in and out of my eating disorder, and relying heavily on pharmaceuticals to keep me moving. Two anti-depressants, an anti-anxiety med and pills to help me sleep at night. But the outside world told me I was succeeding. Everyone was so impressed at how I made "it all" work. But I was miserable, numb and hollow. I cried alone in my car on the way to work, and I cried on the way home.
Then my life exploded. The issues in my marriage reached a breaking point and I ended it. My performance at work was compromised and Corporate America was unforgiving - my company laid me off... from "Golden Girl" to reject in a matter of months. I found myself without a job, without a marriage, with no idea what my future was.
Every single definition of success I had for myself was lying in ruins around me. And you know what? I lived. I cried and I got help from an amazing therapist. I gave myself permission to spend time with my children, and I realized that I really like hanging out with those little stinkers. I worked on my own mental state and slowly dropped the medications (with doctor support and supervision, of course.) I learned to forgive myself for being imperfect. I found a strength, resiliency and peace in myself that I had never seen before. And I found a new job that pays less, but allows me to be home, have a flexible schedule, and love my life today instead of hating my life today while I wait for tomorrow to somehow be better.
There are people who look at me today and think, "Boy, she got totally destroyed and look at her now... couldn't get back to where she was," but they have no idea what they're talking about. I'm happy today. I'm healthy. I'm present for my kids. And we will be fine. We may not take a fancy vacation every year, we may be a family that doesn't have two parents in the same house, but we are going to be fine. My girls will grow up knowing that there is value in enjoying today and appreciating what you have. Because the future you are sacrificing today for may not be in your control - and it may turn out to be nothing like you picture.Read More