Right after college I thought that success was being a career woman, a business professional, and a workaholic. I put every ounce of energy I had into a job that I settled for because I didn’t want to be a college graduate who couldn’t find work. Not having a job lined up as I walked across the stage at my college graduation was, in my mind, failing. I had a job lined up and I thought that made me successful because I wasn’t one of the petrified graduates swimming in the pool of black polyester. I threw myself into work and for almost a year this satisfied me, but I wasn’t making ‘enough’ money. I thought making more money would make me feel successful so I strived for promotions. Money and promotions didn’t satisfy me.
I turned to running after this. I threw myself into training. For a while that went really well. I ran a few great races before the pressure and the fear of failure swallowed me alive. I felt defeated each time I didn’t run a 5k under 19 minutes. My definition of success was hinged on this number even though I was running better than I had ever run in my entire life.
It didn’t matter what I accomplished because I never felt completely whole. I grew frustrated. I felt stuck. I felt lost. I didn’t feel successful in my work life or with running. I had worked myself into the ground only to continue feeling more and more unsatisfied with each passing day. I was mad that I had settled for a lesser version of myself. I was chasing an elusive definition of success. I just wasn’t happy.
What good is success if you can’t hold on to happiness??
I thought success was running fast, I thought success was having a certain job, and I thought success was earning a specific amount of money. Then, one day I woke up and I redefined success. I decided that I was just going to capitalize on the things that made me happy. I was coaching at the time and I clung to that. Coaching brought me joy and it fulfilled me in a way I can’t describe. It also revived my personal passion for running. Running became less about collecting accolades or running certain times and more about doing something I loved. It’s funny how one small thing can change your perspective and inevitably change the trajectory of your life.
In that moment I stopped being that lesser version of myself. I stopped caring if it was professional to wear a neon shirt to my job and I just did it because that is who I am. Wearing neon wouldn’t make me any less successful, but it would make me happier. I stopped caring if making a life change would make me look like a failure and I turned my life upside down. The false success I had created was not who I am. I stopped caring about little things and large scale things; I started being true to who I am.
I am a 29 year old woman who likes glitter nail polish and owns a Hello Kitty toaster. I think wearing a scarf will dress up a running shirt and that talking to cats is socially acceptable. I’d rather send a letter in the mail than a text message, I haven’t gotten a hair cut in well over a year, I enjoy watching crime documentaries, I still listen to the same CDs that I listened to in high school, and I buy the vanilla bean scented products in bulk at Bath & Body Works every Black Friday so I can smell like Christmas all year long. This is who I am. Allowing myself to genuinely be who I am has made me feel more successful than anything else I’ve ever done because Ive learned not to be defeated by failure and to disregard judgement and societal norms, had I done this from the start I’d probably own more spandex and fewer pairs of dress pants.