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I’ve been thinking a lot about success lately, and specifically what it means to me. The traditional idea of success in America seems to revolve around having a good paying job in a “respectable” field and home ownership, or for women, depending on who you ask, popping out happy healthy kids and managing a bustling household.

Just the other night my fiance and I were going through a list of “important premarital discussion topics” and one of them was “What Are Your Personal Life Goals?” This brought me right back to my earlier thoughts on success and how I define that for myself.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I work in “Corporate America,” more specifically, I support the sales organization of a large global service provider, and I truly enjoy what I do.  I really really like my job, but it’s a far cry from what I thought I’d be doing with my life. Even after three years in my current role I can’t seem to see myself as a “business” person. I don’t feel like an insider in that world, and I find myself wondering, somewhat often, if that means there’s something wrong with me.

So where is all this going, you might ask? Well, here’s the thing, I feel like I’m surrounded by people who (as far as I know) see success entirely differently from me, and I’m hung up on whether or not these people see me as successful. How do I measure up, if the yardstick they’re using only has lines for title and salary, accomplishments and timeliness. Isn’t that the yardstick they’re using for themselves?

When my fiance asked me about my life goals I really had to stop and think. I mean, don’t get me wrong, money is great, and I wouldn’t say no to a promotion, hell, I’d take a lot of pride in it if it was offered to me, but is it on my yardstick?  Not really, or at least, its not on the yardstick I always pictured for myself. So, if not title and salary, then do I see family as my route to success?  I won’t deny that I can feel the biological clock ticking, and I do want children and a bustling household of my own… one day. But is that an ultimate life goal, or a line on my yardstick of personal success?

What about this writing thing that I’m always on about, you might be asking… Yes, I have a passion for it, and yes, the act of creating a story is thrilling to me. I’d love to be a published  author one day, and I have some very serious plans to pursue an MFA in the future, but is that it? Is that the existential purpose that fires my soul? No, but I think we’re getting closer.

I think that my sole personal goal, the one thing that on my deathbed I’ll be measuring the success of my life against, is happiness. Happiness that encompasses both my own personal joy, and the act of bringing more light into a world that seems to be growing darker every day.   Did I have more good days than sad ones?  Did I add something wholesome to the fabric of our reality?  Did I really live my life, or did I just exist for awhile?

In some ways, that makes me think that all the things I’ve talked about: title and salary, children and family, my writing, and probably a million other things, are all really lines on my yardstick. That maybe you don’t have to advance through points A and B to get to C. Maybe I’m creating the lines as I go.

I can live with that.