“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” ~ Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery: An Autobiography
I got a promotion at work this week. It is long overdue, so I am not even excited about it anymore. I am thankful about it though. So many people are out of work and are anxiously waiting for the next stimulus check in order to make ends meet, while I am here flourishing in my career. It does not seem fair somehow, but then again, I worked damn hard to be where I am in life, and so I do not apologize for my good fortune, but as always, I am, and remain, grateful that I have achieved some successes in life.
My brother, on the other hand, has not been as fortunate of late as I have been. Troubled by his increasingly turbulent marriage and failing business due to the pandemic, my brother retreated back to the Philippines to reset his life. My parents, ever judgmental, have not been very supportive of his decision to return home, albeit temporarily, and have been bombarding him with questions and accusations, and in short, have called him a failure.
Harsh. But that’s how they have always been – tiger parents that have instilled in the minds of their children that if you are not successful (translation: rich), then you are a failure. Or simply: a loser.
But, really, what is success? A good job? A good marriage? To be able to afford a big house and a fancy car? Why can’t success be something intangible, like achieving peace in one’s heart? Why can’t one be considered successful if they are able to satiate the hunger for freedom in their soul, or dull the ache in their core to feel the fullness of life, instead of the emptiness in their heart?
In theory, my parents consider me successful. I have a good job and a lovely daughter. My brother has a failing marriage and a failing business, and his biggest crime: he has no children.
But in reality, my brother is more successful. No matter what obstacles he has ever faced in life, he has always kept a positive outlook and is genuinely happy. I, on the other hand, despite outward appearances, am prone to depression and disparaging thoughts. I am empty inside while my brother’s soul is rich. To me, that is real success.