the other day i read an amazing article aline smithson wrote about success, and i've been thinking a lot about what success is to me ever since.
it's been kind of a crazy year. my apartment got broken into and all of my stuff disappeared. then, a little while later, my (9 to 5) job disappeared too. and then we made a website on the internet that got sorta popular. the velocity of all this stuff has kind of taken me aback definitely taught me that life is full of unexpected, sometimes unwelcome, but often times unbelievably incredible events that can change the way we think and where we can go.
one weird thing that's really affected me recently has been this website we made. a lot of people like it, and that's insanely awesome. but i've come to realize some things in the last few weeks. while i would definitely characterize this as an incredible experience, there's been a flip-side to it (that i won't give energy to anymore) that's kept me up some nights. being a pretty sensitive person, i let some of that negativity get to me and occupy my thoughts. when a few folks had some not-so-nice things to say, it was hard for me to escape thinking about that and get back to being my old self. all in all, it's been a strange few months and something of a departure from how i'm used to feeling about stuff.
i don't get a chance to take real vacations very often, but sometimes i get to go to zachville-- and in case you're not familiar with zachville, here's a little bit of background. i like zachville a lot. it took me a while to get used to it, but once i did, it's pretty much been my favorite place to be, and everything good happens when i'm there. the sun shines brighter, the air smells better, people smile bigger and i get to be the best me i can be. money doesn't matter in zachville, only happiness does. people don't worry about how to pay rent; they put their mind to it, work together and somehow everything works out. and even if it doesn't work out, it's okay, because things can and will always get better if you work really hard and treat people well (which is rule #1 in zachville). even against the greatest odds and in the midst of the most difficult of circumstances… things (inexplicably, often against all reason, and even contrary to science and natural law) manage to be okay.
there are some people might tell you that zachville doesn't exist. and in all fairness, having taken that trip to the "real world" these last few months, i can definitely see how it's easy to think that nowadays. good news seems hard to find, bills are harder to pay, almost nobody tells the truth and when they do it's usually something you don't want to hear about. people spend more energy on hatred and vitriol than they do on being courteous, and there's way more space in the paper dedicated to mugshots than ribbon-cuttings. and when you look to the future what we see, for the most part, isn't all that pretty. it fucking sucks. i get it, and it gets me down too.
i get shit all the time about being too much of an optimist. people tell me my head is in the clouds, that i have an unrealistic take on life, that things will end up terribly regardless of how much positive energy i throw at them and that baking cookies for people and high-fiving doesn't solve problems. truthfully, those people are right on all counts; sometimes things don't work out the way we plan, and some things, no matter how hard we try to change them, are out of our control.
but inside all of us there's a place (for me, it's zachville… for you, it could be somewhere with a whole new set of rules where people think about everything differently) where all that we do is successful, and all the scary things in the real world we wince at on a daily basis and try to hide from don't discourage or distract us. it's a place where success isn't measured by how many people visited your website, or if you qualified for an american express card; how many girls you got with sophomore year, or what brand your jeans are. it's always changing and growing, learning from it's mistakes and trying to be better. it's a place where just being you makes you proud and glad to be alive, and makes you a valuable and important contributor to those you hold close and the community you've built.
if there's one thing i've learned in the last year, it's that you can't deny the person you are or sacrifice that for anyone or anything, regardless of what's going on around you. hopefully i'll get to do a lot of good for people in my life, and all of those achievements will be validating and make me feel really good. but the greatest feeling of all will come with being myself and not compromising everything that makes me, me, along the way.
this life is bumpy and so fucking weird. people will come and go, old things will die and new things will be born. there will be laughter and tears, profound love and deep heartbreak, and amazing opportunity matched with agonizing defeat. through it all, like the arrows on a treasure map, you have to follow the right path, overcome these highs and lows, and push forward in pursuit of finding the place that will make you everything you want to be. when you get there…. well, i guess what i'm trying to say in my weird, long-winded and roundabout way is… that's what success is to me.
things aren't always going to be perfect, and every day i learn something new that changes who i am and who i want to be. but for right now, i'm back in zachville, shit's fucking awesome, and i'm really happy to be home again.