I’m reading a great book right now called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.”
This book is resonating hard, because I’d say that for a very, very long time my life revolved around giving massive amount of fucks. About everything, and it almost crushed me.
There was one night in particular I remember well. It was 2004. I was sitting at Red Robin in North Vancouver with a half eaten “Clucks and Greens” in front of me (fried chicken fingers for those not intimately familiar with the Red Robin menu #youremissingout)
For anyone that was a fly on the wall at the time at my family home, and the fighting that went on with my life choices, you may have thought I was the family drug dealer.
This was somewhat ironic, as at the time I was an Ivy League grad, with 2 masters degrees, a pro soccer player starting sometimes for one of the top teams in Europe and was a year removed from coming 2nd in Champions League. I had also started my own company that was thriving that I ran from the foreign country I was playing in. And I was 24.
But yet, within the walls of my family home, I constantly felt put down and that I wasn’t living up to expectations of what a successful person should be.
I loved soccer, like love love loved soccer, and that was all I wanted to do, much to the chagrin of my parents.
As I sat there at the Red Robin in 2004 my Dad made a cutting, off-hand comment that was the last straw for me.
I exploded (obviously in a measured tone because after all, God forbid I disrupt my fellow diners at Red Robin). In an angry whisper, I asked him, “do you mind defining for me what successful is to you, since I’m obviously not achieving it” to which he responded, “Well you’re 2 years out of college with a masters degree, so you should have at least a $50,000 year job with health insurance, regular vacations…” Before he could finish I interrupted him.
“Well you are describing my idea of hell, but I’m glad I asked since I know that I’ll never fit your idea of success.”
And that was a hard pill to swallow, that I essentially had to make the choice between sticking to what I knew in my heart I wanted to do (play soccer/requiring poverty line living) and gaining acceptance from someone I wanted so badly to have my life choices accepted by.
In the end being challenged the way that I was within my own house, was a blessing, because I walked a non beaten path with conviction. I was challenged to really think hard about what was important to me in my life and what success truly was from a young age. It had become pretty apparent to me that I realized that my definition didn’t necessarily fit the checklist that society rams down our throat that defines us as “succeeding” or not and that my parents had bought in hard to.
It was also an interesting time for me in my 20’s and early 30’s, because I was miserable. This always surprises people that know me, because most people would say that I’m positive and happy, but I’ve had a lot of anxiety and struggled with low self-confidence for a good part of my life, that I would say really only got alleviated in the last couple of years.
**sidenote/therapy recommendation** I connected a lot of dots from my past through a technique called EMDR that I highly recommend to anyone that is struggling with anything.
Although I never felt accepted or good enough by what my parents had defined as success, society was cool with me, as I used accomplishing things as a way to divert attention from what was going on on the inside of me. I was succeeding and accomplishing things but on the inside with so much emotional turmoil, I felt like a fraud and a mess, miserable, struggling and just wanting to hide from the world.
These past couple of years have been hard from a “failure” perspective, but through trying I finally have what I value the most, which is a sense of security and happiness in myself which I know can only lead to good things ahead. But it’s also redefined for me what again success is at a time when society (and some family members) are screaming failure.
These are a few things I have learned the last few years through my own struggles:
Don’t Be Afraid to Fail. In Fact Seek Failure: It Means You’re Progressing.
I wrote a poem in my 20’s that I found a few weeks ago that described someone that felt trapped inside a house afraid to live. That was me for a very long time. Again, I know it sounds paradoxical to those that know me, but there were things like moving to foreign countries that didn’t scare me, but there were things that did, and so I avoided them.
This past year I pulled a plug on a business that was making me miserable and “failed”. I had a relationship end that I didn’t really get a clear answer about and could probably have internalized it as not being good enough in some way if I wanted to. I’ve failed a lot this year. And yet I feel like I’m winning at life, because for so long I was paralyzed in fear of joining the game. But I’m learning and growing and getting better. Most importantly, when I fall, I’ve started just getting back up as quickly as I can and moving forward.
Failing is a part of getting anywhere, and so it’s on my agenda moving forward to fail and fail and fail.
I found this amazing speech by Denzel Washington from the UPenn commencement in 2011 that says it all.
Embrace Your Own Journey: Don’t Be Afraid to Not Follow The Crowd
I operate from the starting point as the world does not have it figured out. I make decisions on what feels right to me and I go on my own timeline.
I’ll use being a single female in your late 30’s as an example of a time that really challenges your sense of well-being if you’re not married and having kids.
Surprisingly, it is married females that I feel the most negative messages from. In the last few months, I’ve had things said to me from good female friends that are married like, “I just cannnn’t imagine having to date in my 30’s” (FYI it’s really not that bad dating from a place where you actually really know who you are and what you want-props to anyone that found themselves there early). I also had another friend after checking matches on my dating app, many who happened to be attractive and younger, ask me if I was using my real age. After answering yes, I was, I didn’t really get into it, but I found it to be a really weird comment suggesting perhaps that my real age wouldn’t make matching with good looking, younger people a possibility (the world would be a better place if we all would just keep our own insecurities to ourselves).
But this is the thing. I knew when I was younger I didn’t want to have regrets with soccer. Dating wasn’t a priority. I also struggled a lot inwardly, and didn’t know who I was or what I wanted so I avoided that realm for as long as it took me to figure a semblance of it out (apologies to the dating carnage I left in that time).
Women in their late 30’s have to live in a world that everyone is screaming at you that your eggs are dying, your looks are expiring and the pool of eligible people is shrinking, but for all the anxiety I’ve had in my life, on this front, I honestly don’t care. I really don’t.
I trust that things will work out as they are supposed to. That there are an abundance of really great, caring, interesting people out there that I’ll cross paths with if and when I am supposed to (and I already have). On the kid front, I see both the positives and negatives and I’m cool either way if it happens or doesn’t. But I sure as hell won’t be making rash decisions because of the messages that society is sending me that I won’t live a well lived life without them. Plus, there’s a whole world of kids that need love and I’m always up for adopting.
Live Your Life with Integrity and Stand Up For Shit.
This can best be defined with stand up for what you believe in, and stand up for people that don’t have a voice. There’s something to be said for being able to look yourself in the mirror every day and know you’ve taken a stand for everything in your life that matters. There’s no accomplishment worth trading in for that feeling.
Define and Live Your Version of Success
I have a really good friend named Darius, that I went to Yale with. We didn’t see each other in person for 15 years and then randomly ran into each other in a park in Boston as I was getting pushed in a wheelchair with a broken foot.
We picked up where we left in college without missing a beat, and he’s today, one of my very best friends and go-to phone calls.
What I love about Darius is that he always makes me think when we talk and that he has such a different perspective on life.
He’s also frickin hilarious and I am usually in hysterics when we are not getting philosophical
Namely recently we talked about Life Myths- that are perpetuated in society as truths.
What do I mean?
There are things that we think are non-negotiables that we think are normal and the only way of doing things, until we realize that its just one way of a whole host of ways, and it’s not a definite, but instead a choice.
I’ll give you an example.
I grew up in Canada and went to university in the US and breakfast was always cereal. You went to the grocery store and there was a 100 meter long row of choices. That was breakfast. Maybe you had eggs, and bacon and toast sometimes, but cereal was where breakfast was at.
Then I went to live in Denmark and there was 3 choices of cereals total that no one ate, instead everyone chowed on rye bread, liver pate and cucumber for breakfast. WTF I thought? These people are crazy. Cereal is breakfast. Then I realized that life is like that.
You can do and be whoever you want and whatever you want. Success is not a lot of money, a posh job, a cool car, an Olympic medal….everyone that wants to make you think that is pushing something that they want you to buy, whether a concept or a product but every person on this earth that is breathing and living can decide for themselves what success is.
Success and happiness is not found in checklists. And it’s not found in making fear based decisions because you want to fit in. At least my version of success.
And if you aren’t hitting checklists, congratulate yourself for having the courage for not following a well traveled path because it feels right to you. And if following the well traveled path is what feels right to you and you’re doing it, props to you as well. Follow what feels right to you.
That being said, I think it’s really important to sit and think about what success means to you. Not what other people are trying to push on you. Not what society is trying to push on you.
After thinking about it a lot these last few months especially, this is what I’ve come up with.
Success to me is following your heart. Liking yourself, who you are and what you’re about. Doing your best and being nice to yourself when things don’t work out the way you want, or if you would have done something different.
Success is respecting people and understanding where they are coming from. Apologizing, quickly and sincerely when you realize that you were wrong or would do it differently. Being kind. Making those around you better. Inspiring other people to be better. Setting a higher standard. Enjoying the people around you. Being good to your friends and family. Having the courage to let go of people if they aren’t making you feel good, no matter who they are. Doing that from a place of love not anger.
It’s smiling at strangers even if you’re having a shitty day. Being honest. Being grateful. Doing things that make you uncomfortable. Trying hard enough to fail.
Giving your hand, encouraging and picking up the people around you when they fail. Laughing at things that could or should make you cry.
It’s about falling forward as our man Denzel puts it so eloquently, and not giving a fuck as Mark puts it bluntly.