Amma and I are on the phone.
“In our entire extended family, whom do you think is the most successful,” I ask.
“What do you mean? In what sense?” she counters.
“Whatever is your parameter for success,” I say and wait patiently for her to reply.
I can almost hear her mental wheels spinning. She meanders through conventional measures of success like money, property, positions of power and makes a turn to talking about the accomplishments of children. We talk about it some more and conclude there is no true measure of success. We each define it for ourselves.
A friend forwards a message on Whatsapp that mulls over the simpler times of a generation past. “Very true” I reply and she promptly says she wishes for that kind of life with less material things and more experiences. I agree and let go.
My mind though is stuck on that thought. Everything I have today, I am grateful for. I am content in many ways. Past forty is a time in my life when I am not chasing milestones. Insecurities if any are insignificant. My problems are transient in nature. The ones that are not, I seem to have the maturity to understand that my best strategy is to make peace with it. I can see glossy versions of others’ lives and be truly happy for them without aspiring, coveting or comparing my life to theirs.
The journey to this mental space has been past the insecurities: the chasing of money, the acquiring of a place to call home, expanding my family. Today I am content only because I have experienced the highs that come with hitting those milestones. I can luxuriate in the standard of life I have worked for and talk about disavowing materialism or embracing minimalism. I have it, therefore I can now afford to give it up.
A lot of my ‘wokeness’ has to do with growth in different planes. I also realize this is a journey most of us are on. We reach our contentment station after passing through the less nice ones. We persist, we get off and get on. We pontificate. We appreciate.
A huge reason I stepped off the corporate rat race has to do with being fiscally solvent. It also has to do with knowing should the unspeakable happen, we have a cushion to rest on before figuring out alternatives. These days when I speak to others like me mulling over career vs staying home to raise children, I do not speak in absolutes. I share my experience and reiterate their life is not mine, therefore what has worked for me may not work for them.
Success is subjective, as is grief, and happiness. I am as successful as I think I am. I am as happy as I want to be. I hold the keys in my hand. I always did.