Did you have a successful 2021? Yes? No? Why or why not? What would have made it successful? What made it unsuccessful?

Forgive the roll of questions…

For me, 2021 was hard. It brought me a lot of firsts, but it also had a lot of hurts, and the last word I would have used to describe the year was ‘successful’.

But that is the word someone used to describe me last year as I struggled with a very bad bout of depression. In response, I scoffed add said “well, that depends on your definition of success”. I said this to highlight how what people see from the outside, the achievements society considers ‘success’ and the things we’re expected to value may not be what individuals actually need and value. Her definition of success was not necessarily incorrect, just unsuitable vis a visa what I value and would define as success.

Yet, not long after responding to that acquaintance with those words meant to ‘convict’ them, I found the words boomeranged and pierced me just as much when I came across one of my favorite poems:

“Success” by Ralph W. Emmerson

I had shunned being described as successful because the person who was describing me as such was doing so to say “what do you have to be depressed about, you’re living the dream… you’re everything we want to be”. I shunned it because what success means to me would be healing and a lot more…

Yet, as I re-read the poem above, I realized both my acquaintance and I were wrong; if her definition of success was superficial, mine was equally so.  Like most humans I have adopted corporate/labor tools and applied those to my life… doing evaluations on my living the way our school admin, company execs do evaluations of the institutions we belong to. How productive was I, how much did I achieve, how much closer am I to the ‘ideal’… How much do I owe others and myself, what I promised to be, the potential I have to live up to…

With evaluation methods such as these, the metrics of a fortune 500 company applied to a fallible, ever-evolving human being… well, of course, I’ll be unsuccessful.

So perhaps the secret to a successful year, a successful life, starts with how we define success.  So I am going to remind myself that success can be as simple as defined above and use that to evaluate my 2022.

“To laugh often and much”; I’ve succeeded if I’ve had a real laugh, not fake LOL’s but a real out-loud laugh… even if I’m laughing alone at a meme.

“To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children”; I know some very intelligent people, do they respect me? Then I can count that as a success… as well as the title of favorite aunt awarded by my nieces.

“To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends”; Well, I’m not heading into 2022 planning to endure anything, but I do plan to continue to ask for earnest feedback from honest critics- academics are tough so any appreciation at all (including papers accepted with minor revisions) should definitely count as success.

“To appreciate beauty…to find the best in others”; If all I have done today is appreciate the beauty of another human being and let them know it, I have succeeded.

“To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition”; please note that sometimes you’re redeeming a social condition by simply not reproducing/adding to an existing social problem- you’re succeeding

“To know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here.” How can I help someone breathe easier? Here’s a tip- don’t add to their anxiety. This is to have succeeded.

With these metrics, I can be successful every day.

Care to join me? Re-define your success and be assured of a successful year ahead.

As always, I would love to read your thoughts, so drop a comment below! And once again, Happy New Year 2022!