Are You Successful?

What makes a person a success? Why does society view success in such a limited way? What is the key to true success?

This blog topic has needed more research and a longer thought-process than most. Partly, to understand the notion of what people think success is; partly to find a way to write about people’s real-life situations in a way that highlights various examples of success. This blog post is not belittling anyone’s success or life choices, just in case you do recognise a real-life example. I’m just exploring the many options that there are to success.

Imagine a successful person. What do you envisage? You would not be alone if you pictured someone in a smart, formal business-suit rushing to catch a plane, in order to complete an important job role in their busy and high-flying career. Society teaches us to think about success in this way: career, wealth and travel. If you manage those, you are successful to the world, apparently. And in many cases, this is true. But let’s open that brief case and delve a little deeper to what makes a person truly successful at life.

I’ve noticed the term “successful” be thrown around my various family and friendship groups lately – a bit like a pass-the-parcel. People are keen to pass this term “success” on to other people, but are so reluctant to keep it to apply to themselves. When, really, we all want to open that pass-the-parcel: we all want to be successful. One example at a party recently, was a comment “she’s the most successful out of all of us,” the reason being that the girl in question was a few years younger than the rest of us, and had climbed the career ladder quite high for a tender adult age. And good for her! She clearly wanted to achieve that job role and job satisfaction by that age and has accomplished it. But when did success become just about your career or job?

Many people believe that success is the key to happiness. You need to achieve great things – get that job; bring home the money; buy the house. This helps to be happy.  But what if I said happiness is the key to success? This is what I firmly believe and I will explain why… If you are truly happy with your “lot in life” whatever that may. If you have learnt from your mistakes; got a job that makes you happy; stood by your decisions and you are truly happy as a result, then I think you’re pretty damn successful.

My Dad is another example (I hope he won’t mind me mentioning him here). As he nears retirement age, he occasionally complains that he wishes he had learnt a trade, worked for himself or simply attained more of a career. Now my Dad has always worked hard  – a true grafter. He has worked his whole life, bringing home money to support his wife and two daughters. He has now paid his mortgage off and he and my Mum can now enjoy holidays whenever they like. More importantly, he was able to be a loving, dedicated husband and father who has been around for us all. If he had learnt a trade would he be any happier? Would his family? Maybe he’s have slightly more job satisfaction , but longer hours and more stress perhaps. I think my Dad’s successful at life  – and I hope he will read this when he has his next moan!

A lot of my friends have achieved jobs and moved to various big cities – or countries – as a result. They have flown the nest and gone off to be successful in the “big city”. If that is what they choose to do and want to do, then that is fabulous. What I find interesting is that a few of them have confided that they feel they couldn’t return to our small home town, as they would feel unsuccessful as a result. To me, if you are unhappy in the big city earning the big bucks (and I am by no measure, saying they are) and you want to get a different job and return closer to friends and family – and are happy as  a result of that, then that’s true success to me. It’s not about returning with your tail between your legs, it’s about making the decision to be true to yourself and doing it. Experience things and learn from it. Again, I am not assuming that people can’t be happy in addition to a high flying job in a strange city – I know not everyone is like me 😉 I’m pointing out that it’s also a success to admit that you would rather have something else in life.

Society may view me as unsuccessful. I have a below average salary that doesn’t reflect my age or education, and I still live in my small, non-eventful hometown. However, I think I am successful. There, I’ve caught the pass-the-parcel and happy to admit that I think this. I have a job that I adore and gives me job satisfaction every day (most days!) and that has led me to have small business of my own on the side. I live in my hometown because, you know what? I like it here. It’s home. And in addition to my English degree, university taught me something more important: I am a home bird. I like to live within walking distance from my friends and family. I love to travel and go on holiday, BUT my town and roots are important to me – more important than any job or any amounts of money.

Other people may view success differently and I think that’s the point. We need to define what success means to us and put it into practice. If we are doing what makes us happy in this short life, then we are making a success of it.

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Everyone has baggage…

Do the things we carry with us make us who we are? Do they define us? Can physical baggage change how we feel emotionally?

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I’ve just returned from one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on: a trip to Malta for my friends’ wedding. The joy didn’t arrive on the plane with us, however. Neither did my luggage! But let’s just rewind some hours previous to this…

The journey to the airport was the most stressful I’ve ever encountered. We’d already spent hours (it seemed!) discussing a suitable departure time from home, in order to get to the airport in time. I already felt I was carrying a lot of tension as baggage – as well as my large holdall. We went quite early in the end, especially since the online check-in had said there wasn’t enough seats on the plane for our party of 8 to check-in. “It’ll just be that the website’s down!” we exclaimed. “All will be fine,” we repeated, as the British do when there is no cup of tea to soothe the situation.

Additionally to this, the 2 hour drive to the airport took 4 hours due to an accident on the motorway. We had little time to check in when we finally arrived – we were the last ones. The earlier check-in warning was correct – 2 of our party had to go on a different flight. So already, we’d lost some of our friend baggage.  A quick diversion to Brussels and 400 Euros payment sweetened this for them though! My husband and I checked in our baggage – if only I’d known that my bag wasn’t going to Malta any time soon.

After check-in, I normally get that first sigh of relief – you are physically free of luggage and just have yourselves to worry about. Not this time though. We sped to security and, although our friends got through swiftly with ease, we were ages. Firstly, I got “beeped” by the metal detectors and had to have this body scan thing. I also had to wait for my turn, due to a teenage girl having a sobbing fit. Seriously could we not catch a break? She was crying because she thought she was going to get arrested I think. Don’t wear the shiny necklace and bomb shaped shoes then love!  (Okay the shoes are a joke – and I also have no idea why I get beeped every time. I must have metal in my blood or something!) I finally walked out and realised hubby was still not done. Why you ask? Oh he’d forgotten that you can’t put liquids into your hand luggage. Even though a few moments before I’d said to him “Does my Vaseline need a plastic bag you think – is it a liquid?” This still didn’t prompt him to remember that his whole toiletry bag was in his bag. Honestly, men!

So a little lighter of baggage once again (toothpaste, sun cream and after-sun to be precise) we went to the gate. No duty free shopping today, ironically the one time we’d needed to buy sun lotion too! We rushed to the gate and our friends exclaimed that my row had been called  – so off I went to board the plane. Checking in late also meant I had to sit alone, but I think I needed it. 3 hour flight + a book + a glass of wine and some Pringles = a much more relaxed Sammy. The tension had parachuted away.

Once at baggage retrieval, I was now truly ready to start the holiday. There had only been about 200 people on the flight, so the luggage whirred around the conveyor belt quickly – people grabbing, pulling and sliding their belongings off. Then nothing. No more bags. I knew, with the theme of the trip so far that mine hadn’t made it. Turns out, it was still in Heathrow and it would be with me the next morning.

Being an organised individual, I had a bikini, two pairs of pants and a pull-on beach dress in my hand luggage. (Oh and my husband and I didn’t mix our clothes up, because we were staying in different apartments: girls and boys.) Yet, I had no deodorant, toothbrush or anything to go out in that evening. I felt a little sad – and then I felt guilt. Why did I have the right to feel sad about material objects? Some people had nothing. Yes, we were also two of our party down, but we were all alive and well. This trip was only 4 days  long and I couldn’t afford to waste one by being depressed about by lack of clothing and toiletries. My new outfit to try on was one of freedom and invigoration. Plus I didn’t have to lug my bag into the taxi or up to our 5th floor apartment! Silver linings and all that.

I’ve never thought of myself as materialistic and I also believe certain things happen to try us and test us. It was freeing to think I literally had what was on my back (and the couple of items I mentioned above). I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at the beach – everyone has the same baggage there don’t they? Bikini, towel and some sun lotion (borrowed by a friend!) and you’re set. I must  admit I had a little wobble just before we got ready to go out though. Reception said they didn’t have a toothbrush to give me and I didn’t have any of my essentials to get ready with: make-up, perfume, body lotion, jewelry etc. For the first time since University, I felt homesick. It was the same feeling – a yearning for home comforts. Like I said above, I am not materialistic as such. I don’t particularly have expensive brands of these things –  and I was hugely grateful for everything my friends lent me/gave me – but those things are what make you “you”. We went out, had fun and cocktails – I looked alright I had to admit, my beach dress and bra combo along with borrowed jeweled flat shoes, a friend having done my make-up, a borrowed necklace and my travel bag as a handbag – but I felt like a slightly different version of “me”. I truly appreciated friendship in that hour we got ready though. As I say, I feel it was a test and it has definitely made me appreciate things that we take for granted.

The next morning at 8am, I got straight up, bunged the same beach dress on and inquired about my case. They had said at the airport that it would arrive in Malta at 1am.  The man on reception said that with his 30 years’ experience, he had noticed that the airline normally lie about the arrival and it would more likely be that evening. I was done at playing Lord of the Flies by this point and just wanted my stuff. So, another day out in the same shorts and top and bikini. Maybe, I’d lose friends too, due to my growing stench! We also joked that I could have photos taken in various spots in the same outfit. Furthermore, I was starting to worry that I’d be going to my friends’ wedding in my beach dress at this rate!

After breakfast, we returned to the room for money so that I could go out and buy a tooth brush, some pants and my sanity… when I almost tripped over a case. First thoughts of messy, untidy room-mates popped in my mind – then I recognized the white (well not so white any more – this is also the same case that I left in Newquay 5 years ago! It has had more adventures than me!) splashed with multi-coloured patterns. My case was here! Ridiculously, we all cheered! Because it was so much earlier and unexpected, it made it even more special! I had a sudden urge to get changed every hour  – just to make each and every item of clothing truly appreciated and valued! All after brushing my teeth of course 😉

So, I think we all have baggage. We all have “stuff” that make us who we are. Whether it is clothes and shoes; mobile phones; ipads; books; cuddly toys. They aren’t what’s important of course and they don’t make life more meaningful. My holiday was still fantastic with the stressful start. But they do help us to be who we are; survive the day-to-day; be the best version of ourselves. But I do recommend going without for a bit, to make you truly appreciate them. It is true that you don’t really appreciate something until it’s gone.

I rest my case 😉 …

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