Friday, June 5, 2009

What is Success?

Yesterday was Anna's last day of elementary school. Thank goodness! I don't know what happened at the end, but things seemed to deteriorate a bit with high emotions, people getting on each others nerves, and I don't know what else. Anna came home cranky every day this week.

One day that she was cranky was after the "awards" ceremony they had for the 5th and 6th graders. I did not go. I know they passed out some papers for the sports teams. They also passed out Presidential Awards, which was for mostly A's (maybe not more than two B's?). Anna said after they had passed out the awards, they had said something like, "Let's give a hand for our future successful . . . ." I don't know the exact words.

Anna didn't happen to get that award. She was sitting with one of her friends, who is very smart and did not get the award either, among others as well. And she was very put off by the statement they made because she was thinking, "Well, what about us?" She told me just because they got a piece of paper doesn't mean they are going to be successful later in life. Conversely, it doesn't mean she wasn't going to be successful in life either. I totally agreed with her. I told her it didn't mean anything.

I thought it was an important idea, so yesterday I had a conversation with her about it. I said that in our American Society, there is a lot of pressure on people to "succeed". However, most of the time it is society's or somebody else's definition of what that means. I told Anna that only she can decide what her definition of success is. She said, "I know." I'm glad she's a quick learner, because it has taken me about 35-40 years to figure this one out!

I gave her some examples. Maybe someone's definition of success might be to write a book and have it published, even if it didn't make a lot of money (or maybe even just to finish writing a book). Or maybe someone's definition might be to have a family and be able to take care of them. Or someone might want to just be able to help others or live as lightly as they could on our earth. Success could be so many different things. It doesn't have to be like the Jones' or making lots of money, etc. I said I think success is being able to follow your own dreams without letting anyone stop you. Even if you don't reach the goal, the journey of following your dreams is a success in itself.

Image what the world would be like if everybody was encouraged to follow their own dreams and passion. Now that would be a success story!

1 comment:

Terry said...

Interesting that I was just talking to my daughter, the middle school teacher, about this very thing. She was feeling sad for a student of hers who is very successful academically, largely due to extreme pressure from her high-achieving parents, but the child has no friends and very little ability to interact socially in an appropriate way. Her parents have instilled a belief that she is so superior that she can't even get down to a level of having fun with other kids. Don't know why I am telling you this, except to commend your sensible and sensitive parenting. Success certainly is relative, and in my opinion, all about being happy with the life one has chosen regardless of what it is.

Congratulations to Anna on her SUCCESSFUL completion of elementary school and, what a neat kid, to question that insensitive remark about future success!