The Changing Face of Success

An outline of this post has been sitting in my drafts for months now.  I’ve gone to complete it at many intervals but something has held me back.  I can’t blame time or busyness because the truth is, it has been pain that has stopped me.  A burning pain that lies deep inside in those who are not living a life akin to their ‘ikigai’.  It is funny because my passion and understanding of emotional intelligence allows me to acknowledge what is going on at each and every layer but it does not make it any less circumstantial or easier to correct at the time.

I currently wrestle with many conflicting desires.  There is a desire to hold on to everything that I have built up to be my current lifestyle, which is a comfortable one, for the first time in a very long time.  It is not indulgent nor excessive but it is financially stable and that makes it a lot more enjoyable.  On paper, it would seem to an outsider that I have some definition of success.  Two houses; one of the east coast and one on the west, a car that gets me from A to B, a paying job in a global giant, enrolment at a good university, and a trip of a lifetime to a far away place – a not so distant memory.

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Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii – May 2016

As time goes on, I’m becoming more and more aware of my changing definition of success.  I’m not sure the precise time of these shifts but I assume they happened in subtle increments whilst I was busy living my ‘successful’ life.  Success is such a funny word.  To each of us it has a unique meaning which varies greatly and holds a different priority in each of our stories.  It is remiss of me not to acknowledge those for whom the word, as we know it, means absolutely nothing.  To those faced with adversity and real threats of survival; success means triumphing through another day without major harm.  Surely if we were to look up the the word, they would ironically take the definitive prize?

But it is not those who we reward a podium finish, at least not in the world I grew up in.  The literal gold medal is being fought over by those for whom material success is paramount.  It is an attainable pinnacle that dominates excessive norms,  luxe as a given and occasionally questionable behaviour can often be, well, paid to look otherwise.  I would think that the silver medal goes to the ‘resume’ crowd.  A majority of reasonable citizens  who rightfully enter a lifelong ‘pissing contest’ of graduate schools, multi-national firms and fancy titles.   Which just leaves the bronze medallion for those who are bettering the world through thankless actions, improving the lives of themselves and those around them.  Insert radiant sound clip.  I have never been one to covet designer bags, red-soled shoes or expensive wine.  I have never owned a new car nor played tennis on a court that had not been paid for.  To me, a lot of hefty price tags rarely do match the value exchange.

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Yes, this is me collecting shells. A simple pleasure.

Though, I am not without charge.

As a child my desire for fame and popularity was often the driving force behind my ambitions and desires.  I cursed anyone who was gifted with unearned popularity and despite my lean upbringing, I stretched and strategised with the little I had so that most were none the wiser.  As I grew older, the thought of flashy cars and big houses suddenly began to draw appeal.  How successful were these owners of such?  Why was I so far removed from all of this and what exactly did I need to do to get a slice of the sweet cherry pie?

Fantasies began about scouts finding me on the street, they would know how talented I was and fame and fortune would follow closely behind, right?  Or there was the one where the rich royal swoops me off my feet and into his four storey beachfront, delicately placing the string of locally sourced pearls around my neck as we stare off into the ocean. Do they call that one Escapism or Disneyism nowadays?  There were thoughts of lotto, becoming a poker champion, finding a hidden suitcase full of cash buried in the garden and even the wildest one of my parents confessing we actually were rich, they just wanted to make sure I didn’t grow up a spoilt brat – good one guys!  But like all good fantasies, that’s exactly where they stayed.  Locked up in the tower of never-ending thoughts next to the angsty teenage rebellion and behind the lyrics of Coolio’s ‘Gangsters Paradise’.  Great song that, pity I wasn’t graded on it.

So I did what any kid from that comes from nothing and wants it all does – I got a fucking job.

I loved getting my first job.  Working was a pleasure, I took pride in it.  I worked hard, tried not to let the boss down and relished any opportunities for further training and experience.  I was 14 years old when I got my first job and I stayed with that company for 4 years, working part-time after school and on weekends at first and then took on some extra shifts once I graduated from high school.  When University didn’t work out (another story for another day), I took pleasure in the fact that I could now increase my work hours and continue to pay rent.  Working meant I could stay somewhere nice, drive my car places and put food on the table.  In essence, it met a very functional need in surviving my late teenage years.  It also funded a lot of fun nights out and blurred memories, semi-stored.

I got bounced through a shitty system for the next couple of years trying my best not to let the worst stuff stick.  My work ethic was high so I was rewarded with roles that were often more senior than my years but the downside was that I was young and naive.  I let my passion and emotions get the better of the situation at times.  Worst of all I came across and reported to some of the biggest assholes I have ever met in my life.  Real schmucks I tell ya.

Luckily it didn’t deter me.  After 10 years in the workplace, I took on a job that actually paid well and I made the life choice to build my first house.  Now I call it a life choice because that is exactly what it is at any age, let alone when you are 24.  What it took away from me was freedom, lack of responsibility, and the prospect of living or travelling overseas long term.  These are big things when you are in your early twenties.  But what it took away, it made up for in things I needed at the time – stability, homeliness, security, and a small step towards a big dream.  It was never even a question of if I should do this or not.  It was more so; when, how long, do you take cash?  Amusing because realistically, I still didn’t have much.

Anyway, so it went that I brought and built my first house.  Disclosure:  Have you seen Australian house prices?  I obvs wasn’t alone in this purchase.  I wasn’t earning THAT much money.  Credit where credit’s due – this dive into the property market came because I was able to go 50/50 with my partner at the time….hi Aaron!  I’m not so sure his motives were the same as mine but he signed the papers nonetheless and our journey off the cliff was done so hand in hand.  It was a proud moment for both of us.  We were ‘home owners’.  At the ripe young age of 24 – holy shit.  It was a great first house – 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, split living spaces, remote control garage door (I really loved that thing, we didn’t have one growing up), and all in a nice neighbourhood a little out of the city.  It was a pleasant change and lifestyle at the time, and best of all – it was a reason for us to smile and acknowledge the hard work we had put into to making this happen.  Where am I going with this?  I am rambling, yes, but I must confess; tomorrow is a big day.

I am selling my house.

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My first house. Built 2009.

My first house, my baby, my blood-sweat-and-tears.  My safe spot.  My far away place that, for a time in my life, made me feel successful for a fleeting moment.  Now, it is time to let go.  Time to let go of the physical property, of the hypothetical meaning that other people have placed on multi-home ownership.  It no longer has ties to my ego, to my importance of being.  In fact, it now has the opposite effect.  This double-mortgage lifestyle is keeping me tied to things that no longer align with my life’s purpose.  My definition of success has changed and now I must take the steps to align my assets and liabilities to change with it.  It is uncomfortable, occasionally sad, and mostly necessary.  I am ready to let go and I hope that years of sacrifice will pay back even part of the cost that has been taken.

So here is to the next chapter.  To less material wealth.  To more fulfilment and less ties to unnecessary commitments.  To happiness and freedom and travel.  To letting go of the need to be tied to titles and group think.  Here’s to breaking through one layer in a pile of many.

ZB x

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