I remember being back at school and thinking that success, to me, would come the day I was announced editor of some established and renowned magazine. For a long period, that magazine was Time. It was a publication that to me hosted only the best writers, the most well-travelled and well-seen journalists. If you wished to use your voice as a beacon for change, for more than the promotion of beauty fads and superficiality, this marked the epitome of your success.
In its pages, I could write about shit that mattered — not just to people, but to politics, to justice and to the world. I’d situate myself in New York; the hub of all things big and great and seemingly worthwhile. I’d be the ultimate girl boss, and yet, not even close to a Miranda Priestly meme. My work and my words would be revolutionary. And these two would take me to places like the UN or to the very far-off nations that comprise it. I’d write about a 3-month stay in Kenya, and somehow, in some way, this piece would act with indisputable function for the greater good.
On this journey, there was no question of finding or seeking happiness. My path resolved entirely around purpose. I’d utilise my voice to do as all semi-proficient and ambitious writers endeavour: to “change the world.” The result would be wholehearted and unquestionable satisfaction in who I was and what I was doing. After all, I’d be using both my head and my heart. How could I not be so fulfilled?
Ever since leaving school and moving onwards to university, it’s not so much that I’ve lost sense for this depiction of success and satisfaction. I have, however, witnessed — and in many ways, been opened to — a significant change in the way my own definition looks. This definition hasn’t stopped changing. In fact, in the last 12 months, it’s undergone its greatest rebuild yet. Honestly, I’m not even certain the job is done.
During my university years, I continued to blog right here on Currently Loving, and for the most part by fluke, I entered the sphere of digital media management. It came as an endeavour to break into “the media industry” in a very general sense. Funnily enough, in digital media would be the very place I’d stay.
I realised that traditional journalism was undergoing great change, and at the same time, so was I. Were magazines dying? Are they still? Hell, I don’t really know. Some certainly are. Others are adapting and diversifying the means through which we consume them. Back then, It didn’t really matter. I quickly recognised that even if I was writing some life-changing shit, sitting in an office all day to write it wasn’t my definition of satisfying.
What’s more, I had unveiled an unfortunate truth regarding my role as the travelling, exploring and ever-insightful editor of Time. That this version of self would be realised in the next five years wasn’t just unlikely. The prospective reality of reaching this goal at a young age, was, even in my eyes, arguably wrong or inadequate. How would I do the role justice?
And if I did seek it anyway: would that journey encompass what I wanted out of everyday life.. not just on my gravestone?
And so I kept perusing. Perhaps perusing is the wrong word. I was pretty determined now. Whilst I didn’t know if journalism was quite for me, this I did know: that if there was one thing I’d use in this life.. any one thing that I’d give, or go so far as to call my “purpose”, it remained my voice.
The voice that asks to be heard when I write. The one that assures you I’m not my age when I speak. It was and is my most prized asset. And despite its imperfect and sometimes rugged value, it has offered me direction so far. And so to this day, I plan to follow it. And by all means, I plan to use it.
I’ve since had an epiphany similar to that of John Green’s Augustus Waters. Like the hopeless romantic I am, I must have cried at least twice reading The Fault In Our Stars. Hazel Grace Lancaster is my younger self; a self who is convinced that in order to succeed in this world, one must live such a grandiose life and do only grandiose things. Mundanity in its every form is her and my own biggest fear.
Today, I still don’t wish to live a small life. I hope mine is not filled with just small things, like tasks and routines and ironing and washing. The go-to-work, the come-home, the cook dinner, the politely laugh.
Sure, things have changed, but not that wildly much. To this day, I seek a life that defies an encouraged structure or way to live. I look at people who board the trams in the morning; day-in and day-out, they look tired. It boggles me most to think that only some of these people hate their job. Others, however, would defend it. They’d talk about long term rewards and eventual satisfaction.
But answer me this: why the fuck is everyone so caught up with the long-run? May I be the first to say, and to openly accept that it may be my age speaking here, but I HATE THE LONG-RUN.
My vision of success, or perhaps a vision I was told to have, this too was so unbelievably caught up in the long run. As we grow up, no one speaks about how to be happy and satisfied whilst we climb the ladder — why, even if the way up actually has the ability to offer us these feelings at all. We’re told instead that satisfaction awaits us at the top. And listen as my impatience comes out in me: I don’t think I’m ready to wait. And this is why my vision of success has not only changed in my head. It’s changed in every way that it appears in my life.
I don’t want to wait 10 years to be happy, and I don’t believe that happiness comes from having an elite or respected career! I don’t actually care in what sphere my career is respected at all — so long as the people I work with have respect for what I do, and equally importantly, that I do! As I grow and as I question life far too much, I’m finding it less and less easy to even pretend I’m interested in being a success by society’s standards. I’m far more interested in being a success by the standards of myself. And too, in the eyes of those few people who actually understands how it now looks to me.
Maybe what I’m trying to say, is that my vision of success once focused on a destination. But the more I grow up, the more this vision is turning its head towards the journey. And in doing so, it’s looking at the very lifestyle that comprises it. I want to love my life and my everyday, and thus, inspire those around me to do the same. I want to be a visionary, not because I can talk about things I don’t know in far-off places. But because I can walk every single thing that I do, right here and right now.
There’s been moments where I’ve debated if I’ve given up early. Perhaps I’ve realised that life’s a little harder and a little longer than expected, and for that sake, I’ve opted for a different path. I don’t dwell here long though. Deep down, there’s no debate that this has anything to do with growing lazy. This has far more to do with growing self-aware.
I always thought that making change in a small sphere would prove slightly redundant to me. That it wouldn’t be enough for me to live just a happy, little life. But I’ve realised it’s not as simple as living big or living small. You need to succeed in both to succeed in either. Or at least, I do. I’m better at being the person that other people need, when I’m good at being myself too. My best, most happy, most inspired and content self.
Am I retreating to the Buddhist philosophy that says life’s only intention is to be happy? Maybe, a little bit. Am I ditching my every hope and dream of success? Not one bit at all. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my dreams look slightly different now. They’ll probably look different in a year. But I don’t mind. I don’t want to waste a single day doing something that doesn’t make me happy now. And if that means I’m opting out of the grind that society has labelled the “road to success”, well then, you’ve heard it here for the first time: FUCK the grind.
Unless, of course, it’s a grind I’m personally directing.
What are we working hard for if not to be happy ourselves? And if not to spread that happiness? I was watching a Casey Neistat video recently, and he was talking about an article he read in which a “successful” individual, earning $110k annually revealed he wasn’t happy. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this. Another study we’ve all heard: that there’s a certain level of income that makes us happy, and beyond this, most of us are only more stressed. We fall to the pressure of a newly colossal number. And at the end of the day, that’s all that it ever becomes: a number.
I write this, for once, content to make an impact on my little circle only. For now, that’s enough. I want you to be okay with your idea of success. But I also want you to consider if it’s actually yours. Ask yourself if someone has imprinted some notion of success in your head. And then, feel okay when you choose to pursue your own version. Be open when it changes once again. The way things are going, I tell you, it’ll change so many times yet.
There is not one definition of success. Not in life. And not for me, nor for you. As mine changes, I’m changing the outfits I’m wearing in accordance. I’m giving myself the freedom to experiment; better yet, to embrace my ideal version and the life she wants to live. The journey is not over yet. In fact, it’s just the beginning of this dress edit.
In 2019, it’s time to put on the one you wear best.
Outfit 1: PrettyLittleThing Black Cargo Maxi Shirt Dress in Stone, headband [opshopped]
Outfit 4: PrettyLittleThing Burnt Orange Chevron Print Lace Maxi Dress
Shop PrettyLittleThing dresses here.
Imagery by Julia Krivoshev
Note: this post was curated in collaboration with PrettyLittleThing [AD].