You’re An Oxymoron

2011 May 31

Recently, someone called me successful. I laughed. I quite literally own nothing but the contents of one Samsonite suitcase and four cardboard boxes (most of which are filled with papers) and a laptop that’s about to give up the ghost. I’m not married. I don’t have a family. I don’t own any property. And I can’t even make it until 5:00PM without all my makeup smearing off.

But I do have a good job where I make business deals and finesse contracts and bat clean-up when stuff goes wrong and I  get well praised for it. I write for Forbes. I have no debt and I take excellent care of my skin. I make people laugh. Last week, an old man told me I was really beautiful*.

It’s all relative. My failure. Your success. Your vice. My versa.  Who can say definitively what’s thriving vs. just surviving?  What would have seemed incomprehensibly dull and stultifying to your 16 year-old self turns out to be a pretty sweet deal when you hit 40.

Of course you already know there’s no ambition ceiling. As soon as you have a little, you want a little more. And when you have a lot, you can imagine having and doing and being  a lot more. When you have nothing, making the ends meet and being able to knot them off is a $#@%* triumph. When you’re living the proverbial good life, a renovated kitchen is all that’s standing between you and perfection.  Maslow had it down cold. If there’s not an obvious need or gap, human nature is such that we’re gonna create one just to give ourselves something to chase down, to long for, to believe in.

And forget about the mythic ideal of balance. Just because you get 110% of your RDA of Vitamin C, doesn’t mean you can’t still be woefully iron deficient. After all, you can be the richest woman in the solar system and still fight a (very public) 25 year-long battle with your weight.

So, if you feel like the world’s most awesomely-successful-on-paper failure or most fraudulent success story, you’ve got a lot of company. Like, say, most of us.

*No, he wasn’t angling for my spare change, thanks for asking.



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