I come from an overachieving family - a place where success was measured in dollar bills and self-worth depended on achievements added to a resume. Growing up, I desperately tried to live within these bounds.
Everything was a competition, from grades to sports to college acceptances. My happiness was quantified by the material successes and failures of life. When I couldn't meet my standards, I let the loss tear me apart.
At the start of college, these ideals controlled me. I wanted to major in accounting and go on to law school, because I thought there would always be high demand for corportate lawyers. Looking back, I think I more-so liked the idea of telling people I wanted to study law, because then they would give me impressed looks and comment on my ambition.
The thing about college, is that often our fantasies for the future don't work out as planned. For one thing, I didn't expect to hate accounting. I didn't expect to love English. I didn't expect to find classes hard, to start working a job for resume building, (only to get fired within two months), or to lose touch with the friends I had initially grown close to. I didn't expect to get caught with a fake ID, to have to go to a conduct meeting and to have that mark my student record.
Two years in, with all this going on, I thought of myself as completely inadequate. After all, I had failed to pass the metrics through which I calculated my satisfaction with life. Without a perfect GPA, resume, conduct record, who was I? The truth is, I had no idea.
My saving grace was a writing workshop I took the next year. I was still facing an identity crisis - and God, it was terrifying - but writing became an outlet, a way to express emotion unapologetically, a place where I could soak my soul into the page without fear of repercussion or consequence.
And through my work I slowly began finding the pieces of myself. I learned that I liked helping people, that I liked creating, that yeah, maybe I was more than a test grade or salary figure.
Because For the first time in my life, I was doing something solely for the fact that I was passionate about it. And people seemed to like what I was saying - telling me my words were powerful and meaningful and could come to change the world.
It felt great; it felt important; it felt like what I had to say mattered. Through my writing experience, that's what I've come to learned life is about. It's about doing what you love, and loving what you do. It's about feeling significant, in all the ways that count.
I've found success is more than the numbers life tells us we are. Happiness comes through finding purpose: wether that's trying to impact the world, spending time with the ones we love, or experiencing the world in the small moments and big ones. Our purpose is our own to hold on to.
For me, I want to help other people - to let them know they are not alone, to help on the endless path to self discovery, to be here in any way I can. Maybe law school isn't for me, but I think I'd like to try my hand at teaching; maybe some college level English class showing students to live and think for themselves.
Maybe I won't make as much money. I've decided I'm okay with that, because I'll be happy and that matters more than anything else.