When I returned home from Wyoming, I had to move back home with my parents because my apartment lease ended at the end of the summer while I was working in Wyoming. My Dad is retiring from his job that he has had for 39 years in just a week and as of right now, the house is going up on the market in a few days and my parents are moving to the north Georgia mountains. Which left me with having to do some massive cleaning of my stuff before the realtor comes to take pictures.
I honestly have never really done a huge clearing of my things so the task was hefty. My room looked like an absolutely disaster with things from every apartment I’ve had. And books, papers and projects dating back to my college and my early high school days. My closet was the worst part and I dreaded having to clean up that dusty mess of crap.
While I was cleaning my closet though, I came across a folder that was for my high school senior letters. Not sure if every school did this or not, but we had a day that we rehearsed our upcoming graduation then everyone received a folder that had letters written by family, friends, teachers and anyone else that wanted to commemorate our graduation.
I actually remember this day very well. I remember seeing everyone’s folders thick with letters spilling out. And I felt some embarrassment because mine was thin. No more than three or four letters in mine. I reread one of them and don’t even remember the person who wrote that one. And one was from a best friend’s mom and another was from my math teacher that year.
My friend’s mom mentioned in her letter how I was always great to have around because I smile and laugh so much. Which actually made me smile. My math teachers’ letter is what hit me though.
It starts out with the question, What is success?
Then this quote.
“What is success?
To laugh often and much.
To win respect of intelligent people
And the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
And endure the betrayal of false friends:
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
A healthy child, a garden patch
Or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
Easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
This really made me think about my life. What I’ve accomplished, what I’ve failed at, where I’ve been and who I’ve met along the way. The ups and downs. And the highs and lows. The last few lines are what really hit home for me too. Have I succeeded? Have I lived? And have I had that type of impact on someone?
Before I read this quote and what the teacher said in her personal note, I wouldn’t have thought of my life as a success. And to be even more honest, I have struggled with my self-worth ever since I graduated from college.
I think it’s because I have had a hard time finding work that I don’t view as work. Finding my career calling as I would like to have it. I also have intense feelings of being lost in this world. Like I have no idea where I should go or what I should be doing and feeling completely helpless. I have felt out of place many times and I have felt completely worthless. I often find myself questioning my purpose and role in this world.
Nothing has been completely fulfilling for me. Like what I was doing wasn’t serving a purpose for myself or even anyone else. Sometimes I feel like a failure because I’m broke or live at home with my parents or not happy because I’m not exactly in my dream future. I can be really hard on myself at times and these negative feelings I believe has put me in a mild depression at certain times in my life.
I’ll be the first one to admit that a lot can hide behind a smile. As happy as I can appear at times, sometimes what goes on in my head isn’t very healthy for me. My recent girlfriend once told me while we were driving back from spending the day in Fort Collins Colorado, that I took so sad when I’m not smiling. Without feeling or seeing my life’s purpose sometimes is depressing for me, for some reason. And when I smile or laugh, I often forget about the inner struggle of mine. Those are my moments of escape. So she was right at that moment.
But on the other side of things, this has pushed me to do my best. It has made me an inward thinker and reflect on things I need to work on and improve upon. I feel I have become a better person because of it. It has also made me beyond grateful for the little things in life. It has taught me a lot about myself and has made me realize that I don’t need much to be happy.
A lot of times I question why I do the things I do. I think the main reason I do long endurance events is because of my feelings of worthlessness and feelings of being lost. Training and doing the races I have done, have really only been what’s made me not feel useless. Now I know I shouldn’t think like that because there is way more to my life. Things that I can be blind to during moments of darkness.
The letter continues on and she says,
“When you look back on your years in high school, I hope you will have fond memories. But, I also hope you don’t look back on these days as ‘the best days of your life.’ There is an exciting world out there ready for you to make your mark. I hope you find your inspiration and share that with anyone who will listen. You are the future. Make a difference. Be a success.”
Ever since I have returned home from Wyoming, a lot of people mentioned to me that I have done more in the last 4-5 months than most people have or will ever do in their lives.
Laying in bed last night, I thought of everything I’ve done the last few months. Everything I’ve done and accomplished. Everything I’ve seen. And everyone I have met. Replaying all that took place in my head, made me think I was watching a movie. It made me feel very satisfied and grateful. It even put a huge grin on my face and laugh in pure contentment.
The past few weeks of being home, I haven’t felt very great because of the complete uncertainty that lays ahead for me. The feelings of being lost have come back and I have no idea what I’m doing. But now I feel okay about it. I even feel excited and anxious about what the future brings. I think it’s natural to feel down after returning from a long adventure. But I have to remember that once one ends, a new journey will begin shortly.
So, what is success?
I have no idea if I have made the world any better than when I first entered. I have no idea if I have earned appreciation of critics or from anyone really. And I have no idea if someone has breathed easier because of me. But I do know that I can now smile from all that I have experienced. I know that I am happy with the way things are because life has been an amazing trip so far. And I do know that all of my ups and downs in life are because I have truly lived. And because of this I do feel I have some worth for the world and I have succeeded so far.
Everyone wants something different out of their lives. But no matter what you want, I think if you are happy, you have succeeded. If you are grateful for and content with your life experiences, then you have succeeded. If you surround yourself with wonderful people, they will make you feel you have succeeded. And I think that if you can look back on your life and smile, then you have succeeded.
Not matter what you do, where you are or who you are with, you are touching more lives than you think. That is success.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”