Things I Believe is a series of mini essays exploring something I fundamentally believe to be true, from lipstick to metaphysics, they’re meant to offer a little insight into a little (or big) something.
There were a few afternoons last week when the sun came through the windows at the office, refracted through a cup of water and settled on the wall in a soft little pyramid of light. On those bright and warm afternoons, I convinced myself that we were having an early spring and daydreamed about bare limbs and fizzy drinks. This week, the damp cold is again creeping through the windowpanes and burrowing deep into our bones; sundress season, I’m afraid, is still a long way off, but mentally I’m totally there.
I’m not one to dwell on the past. Instead, I’m usually stretching my arms as far as they’ll go, clutching at the future. I close my eyes at night and imagine what will be; I anticipate obstacles, rehearse speeches and see myself championing difficult situations that will eventually lead to something people define as success. But the success that I envision is as vague and fleeting as that pyramid of light on the wall. To me, success isn’t as simple as having Mercedes on the driveway, a plaque on the wall, or a villa in Tuscany, it’s not a plateau on which I’ll stand and look down with satisfaction on all I’ve accomplished. No, for me, success is the pursuit. It’s having a goal to chase, a task to accomplish, and a new adventure to begin. The minute you declare you’ve reached the top, the only place to go is down.
After her win for Best Actress at the Oscars, Jennifer Lawrence, who every girl in the world is vying to secure as their BFF*, answered questions about her win, her fall, and her future. The last question she was asked –which starts at the 2:45 mark– was, “At 22 years-old you’ve got your first Oscar and you’ve already had two nominations, um, it’s awfully young to have so much success so far. Do you feel, is it a good thing that it’s coming so early in the career?” Jennifer’s answer is playful and sarcastic, she hopes it’s a good thing. The journalist then asks, “You don’t worry about peaking too soon?”
She rolls her eyes: “Well now I am, God.”
Unless she were to have expired right there with her Oscar in hand, there’s no way this would be her peak. She might not win another Oscar, but will that make her future efforts unsuccessful? Will that mean she will never top this performance? Absolutely not. So long as we’re challenging ourselves and growing, we’re on a path of success. As long as we’re working hard and doing what we love, we’re succeeding.
Just as I know that spring will eventually come and the afternoon light will shine through the window and again cast flickering shapes on the wall, I know that I will always be in pursuit, will always be pushing myself to overcome that next challenge so the brightness behind my eyes can briefly come into focus before forming a new shape and then slipping away, again, just beyond my grasp.
What does success mean to you, dear reader? I’d love to know so feel free to share in the comments.
*For real, I will fight you for her.