“Don’t sleep your life away”. Those words were uttered to me by a cashier at the local grocery store where I worked part-time over 20 years ago. There are some memories that the mind just won’t let go. He asked me questions about what I did in my spare time and I heard myself saying “sleep” several times. I was in the throes of my depression back then. I slept a lot and was tired all the time. He baffled me because he was smart, had done 2 years of state college, and was actively seeking full-time employment at the store. Why would he do that? Why wouldn’t he just go back to school? You have to understand that I was groomed for college and beyond throughout high school, so this was indeed baffling to me considering that he had been to college. I did ask him why and he said that there was good money in working full time plus he could get medical benefits.
At that time, I saw all the jobs there as dead-end (I do not feel this today…an example of education privilege), but who was I to talk? I dropped out of college too. I initially typed that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but that was not the case. I knew what I wanted. I just didn’t have the courage to live it yet. I had worked that job as a cashier since I was in high school. I felt trapped. Yet, if he only knew that his unsolicited advise ignited something in me and might have even made me a little indignant. The cautionary way he said it got my attention. He was very perceptive. I might be making this up, but I think he was a psychology major. Whatever the case, you can call it a challenge, a wake-up call, a slap in the face, a come to Jesus talk, …whatever it was, it helped propel me forward. My light, albeit dimmed, wasn’t completely burned out. Despite who I had disappointment by not choosing them through religion, familial ties, college preferences, cultural expressions, etc., and especially despite disappointing myself, I didn’t want to sleep my life away. I wanted to have control over my decisions and my happiness. I was not going to suffocate in mediocrity, heartache, disappointment, pain, inertia, hopelessness, helplessness, guilt and shame. I made the decision to not give up.
Since my first post in this series that I’m calling “Full Circle” (you can read it here) , I’ve been thinking about my definition of success. I’ve also been considering how my readers may perceive my definition of success. Am I a success? High achieving people like me tend to frequently practice goal setting. I’ve already achieved most of my major life goals (the ones that can be somewhat quantified by others). However, that’s not all there is to it. I also have goals of conquering fears, overcoming family pathologies, deepening relationships, and emotional, spiritual, mental self-improvement. It continues to require faith, courage, honesty, assertiveness, self-compassion, self-reflection, perseverance, empathy, understanding, diligence, and resilience to be in the place I’m in today. There may be more. It also takes work. Each item requires work and I’ve spent more time on some than others. I find that it’s a constant process of learning about self. I love it when author and TV host Iyanla Vanzant says to “do the work” because I know what she means. I’ll discuss what “work” in my next installment.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been successful in many areas and not as much in others. It varies. I can hear the inner critic in me saying to tone it down a notch as I try to give myself credit. Does this sound like I have more “work” to do? I acknowledge that I have overcome many obstacles, some of which were self-imposed, and some not. I am constantly overcoming and evolving. It’s like I’m in a race with myself to see what the best version of me will look like. Stay tuned.