My idea of success…maybe it’s changed.
Before I came to New York, I felt like a pretty big failure. Like an actual — real live — failure to launch.
I remember driving home one night, in a car that wasn’t really mine, in heels I’d had to borrow. I remember kicking them off while I sat at a red light and tallied up my tips. While I waited for the light to turn green, I remember thinking: My parents invested so poorly, in me. After all, I could have been a hostess at age 16, with little more than a bright smile and a nice pair of black pants.
It had been almost a year of trying to figure out what I wanted to do — what I was meant to do — and I still had no idea. All of my friends had seemed to slip so easily into their new lives. They knew someone that knew someone and they now lived in some city that was GREAT, really fun, you should come.
They were having the times of their lives: decorating shared apartments on shoestring budgets, organizing happy hours after work, going to whirlwind weekend weddings with the +1 they’d soon be marrying, hosting real (not potluck) dinner parties, and meeting for coffee with friends of friends.
That night I took the long way home, in an attempt to swallow the hot and angry tears I’d already cried a thousand times before. I was sure, so sure, that what I needed to do was get an apartment of my own, and land a job I would be proud to have.
And so, when I finally felt like I couldn’t stand it anymore, I took steps to make both of those things happen. Big steps. I broke up with my boyfriend — because I needed to do this on my own — and I moved out and away. I found a place that would be happy to have me, for 40 (or 50, or 60, or 70) hours a week.
But the feeling of making it? It never really came. Not even when I went from being an unpaid intern to a full-time employee. I wasn’t even close to doing what I wanted to be doing, and I was giving up everything to do it.
So I left my first real job, six months before it could have been considered even somewhat acceptable to have moved onto something else, and I learned how the opposite of making it really feels. And now, during some of the bigger lulls, I sit in the apartment that I can’t afford (could never really afford) and I think of the word failure. Again. Failure, Part II.
But this time feels different. Because, as it turns out, my idea of making it does not involve working so much that I forget how to cook a chicken breast. It does not involve being so plugged in that my laptop gets most of my pillow at night. It does not involve being too tired to put any energy into being a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend.
It does involve being grown-up enough to take myself out to lunch, without feeling horribly self-conscious about sitting alone.
It also involves realizing that having a lot of money isn’t the end goal — the way I always sort of thought it was.
It involves learning how to have some fun, even while I flounder around and try to find the (liquid?) courage to begin all over again.
It definitely involves learning more about myself — but again, not in relation to someone else. Not yet.
Happily, it also continues to involve trying more new things. (Specifically: milkshakes, concretes, crinkle fries.)
It involves really opening up to people, even when it’s hard. And networking, kind of, in a way that feels a lot more natural to me.
And you know what else? It involves getting really kind of radically lost, sometimes. (A lot of the time.) And being mostly okay with it.