Musings on Success from an Insecure Millennial

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Writing 101, Day Nineteen: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

What does success mean? As I stare into the face of the future, my perspective from “start here” jumps and skips, like a buffering video with a slow internet connection. I am old enough and qualified enough to be a part of any workforce – friends of mine write at Hallmark, teach music full time, are pursuing masters degrees, building their portfolios and climbing the career ladder. Already. Because I am also young enough to have not had the time to gather a string of positions, awards, rewards, or any comprehensible smattering of “I’m a grown-up now” adjectives. I substitute teach and am building my piano studio, and finding ways of becoming a significant part of the music community in my city.

And I am happy. I mean, at least I think so, until I read other people’s impressive bios – specifically writers’ bios, or today, another blogger’s bio. (Someone I almost know from Kansas City, who I could almost be friends with if I wanted to.)  Their success seems so within reach, like, “I could so do that,” and yet so impossible. I would need time, resources, and more know-how than I currently possess. And it is at this point that my problem solving skills come into question.

How good am I at solving my own perceived “problems”? For many 20-something’s, this just means “how can I get what I want now” – the job I want, the credentials I want, the happiness that comes with a satisfying career. And today, a satisfying career is defined by our world’s youngest as changing jobs at the speed of light to pursue what we want now. Thank you society for creating a generation of millennials who expect to inherit the world on a string, sitting on a rainbow.

I don’t have the string around my finger, if you know what I mean. I am basically a freelance music teacher, substitute teaching and teaching privately.

Hello? This would’ve sounded great to me at 16! Even now, if I put all my other goals and dreams about life out of my mind, what I do for a living sounds pretty satisfying. I’ve always wanted to teach music, and have never been one to be tied down to have-to’s and inflexible schedules. Sometimes I just feel a little imposter-ish, not going the full time route that my education prepared me for. I don’t get paid in the summer like other music teachers at public schools. Instead of a summer off, I get to work harder than I would during the school year at a different job that pays me less.

So, if what I want is consistency throughout the calendar year, success at writing in addition to teaching music, how do I solve my problem? That is the question.

I’ve never been the best problem solver. I’m more of the resourceful just-in-the-nick-of-time fix-it sort of person. I can figure out how to store food in the refrigerator when I am all out of clean tupperware, for example. When it comes to the long term questions of life, I am neither confident enough in my decision making skills or research skills to institute big change in my own life. In the past, I have been known to have emotional break downs when faced with serious problems I am responsible for solving. (How do I form an aural memory of 50 musical works from the past 500 years along with memorizing their names, composer names, and years of composition? Um, pardon me while I go cry in a corner because I can’t instantly, easily get what I want.)

I think in this day and age, success means getting what you want. And more and more, it means getting to do what you love and get paid for it. The feeling of being successful is a tough one to get a hold of though, like the rabbit that lures on the dogs in a race. The rhetorical carrot dangling just ahead, whispering mouth watering promises in our ears as we chase it.

Hare Coursing: I always knew I was a bit of a dingo.
Hare Coursing: I always knew I was a bit of a dingo.

And then sometimes success is being happy. I’ll tell you right now I’m not satisfied with that answer. Because happiness is NOT going to magically show up on our doorstep the minute we enter our dream jobs. We can be grateful for doing work we enjoy, but happiness is a personal choice in any walk of life.

If success is a vapor, slipping in and out of our cupped hands due to the nature of its complexity, maybe the ultimate question is really, Am I happy?

And the answer to that question, for me, is yes, mostly, and when I am thankful.

I live a life full of love and joy, I am cared for by people and by the hand of God and in this I find grace enough to cover me. Though I often chase potential and get emotionally caught up in the acquisition of worldly accolades (I’d love to win writing contests or be published or have a blog that contributes to my income), I do experience a sense of great meaning and purpose in what I do (teach music), and I can’t forget the overwhelming blessings I have been given outside of work (my husband, my family, my friends, and my home).

How ironic that I have always sought after consistency and security that now, having reached it I refuse to be content. Here’s to hoping this feeling will spur me on towards becoming a better teacher, better writer, better me.

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