How I Define Success in My Life

I've written before about the "great adventure" of my childhood, where my parents quit their jobs, rented out the house and bought a second hand motor home and for eighteen months we traveled extensively throughout North America. I was four years old when we left and turned six just after we arrived back home in Canada.

During this impressionable time of my life, when many other kids are in pre-K and kindergarten, I was living a wild gypsy adventure. I remember chasing the waves in Oregon with my dad at night. I remember the Arizona sunsets. I learned to ride my first bike alongside the Rio Grande river in Texas. And yes, my parents were teaching me the fundamentals of education, I was learning to read, but I was learning so much more than that.

Even now, over thirty years later, I am left with a lesson from that experience in my life that will always stick with me and that is that success and happiness look different to everyone.

It's easy to look at society and think that success is defined as a bigger house, a better car, a better job title and a bigger bank account. And for some people, maybe that is it.

But when I was a little girl I saw people for whom success and happiness was living free. It was living without the bondage of a mortgage. It was chasing the next adventure. It was playing music by the campfire. People who hitchhiked the country. Or in some cases, people who headed south for every winter. People from extremely diverse backgrounds and we had all come together to share in this experience.

I had two Christmases as a child without a normal Christmas tree. One year, in a campsite in Arizona, we decorated a creosote bush outside our motorhome with little homemade decorations. It was unconventional. It was fun. It was always happy even when it was unpredictable. But then again, that was my family and those were my parents.

So, here I am now in my late thirties and I have an extremely open minded idea about what success looks like. I don't worry about how something will look on my resume. I don't worry about whether my job title makes me sound worthy. I love my job, I love my work life balance, I love that I never worry about those things! When my husband called to tell me that he was laid off from the job that he hated and was overworked at, I replied with, "Congratulations! We have a new adventure ahead!"

I don't think about my parents as shiftless people. They were married for 35 years. My mom has worked in the same industry for well over thirty years. They were responsible people. But they didn't turn down adventure. And years later after that first adventure, when my mom got a job offer in America, my parents embraced it. They could have found a million reasons why they shouldn't do it. They had 3 school age kids and a college student living at home. My mom was 43 and my dad was 55 - many would say at that age it's too risky. My dad had significant health concerns. It meant leaving everything we'd ever known for the complete unknown. It meant they could fail and have to come back. But they did it anyway.

And more than anything, I love that my parents always instilled in me that unconventional sense of grasping life fully, really breathing it in, taking those chances, always being willing to try, and not being afraid of what could go wrong.

I define my success instead now by my heartfelt happiness, my sense of self worth, and the passion I have for life. And no corporation, economic downturn, misfortune or even another person can take that away from me.