Putting things into perspective

Nothing particularly unusual happened on my bike ride to work this morning.  I cycled up to Pembina where I passed the usual construction workers, stopped at the normal lights, and the usual #60 buses passed by, ferrying students on their way to university.  I started to think about how my life would be if I were in school rather than working full time.  I’d see different areas of the city outside my own little work-home-Taylor-Pembina radius.  I’d pass by hundreds of different people every day, seeing a variety of outfits, attitudes and opinions.  I’d learn something academic on a daily basis.  I’d meet new people, people who could turn into some of the closest friends I’ve ever had, just like when I was in university before.  I’d sit in coffee shops surrounded by other students and listen to music, or catch parts of conversations, gossip, debates, or current events.  How different life would be if I were still in university.

I kept cycling to work and this got me thinking about success.  I’d be extremely poor if I were in university – I’d have to find some way to pay my rent and have enough time to study and find a part time job.  I’d have to give up lots of things and take out another loan.  But it’d get me an education and I think I would personally feel more fulfilled.  Ultimately I’d hope I’d end up with qualifications that would get me a better, more successful job in the end.  But by what means do we define “success”?  Natural inclination is to think of it as a monetary definition.  If you make a lot of money, you must be successful.  I don’t make very much money, does this make me a failure? I wouldn’t think so.  I guess it depends on how you personally define success.   So I started thinking about what it meant to me.

As of right now, I have a pretty big chunk of debt, I live in a small (but lovely) apartment dependent on having a room mate to help pay the rent.  I have no car but a full time bicycle and a full time job in which I design ads, business stationery, invitations, type articles and do lots of printing and photocopying.  Am I successful, by general definition? I guess financially, I just about scrape by enough to slowly pay off the bills, afford to go out once in a while, and buy the odd new shirt now and then.  It’s tight.  So if the standard and generally accepted definition of “successful” is indeed financially based, I guess my answer would be no.

But to me success isn’t synonymous with having a lot of money.  Success is made of up personal satisfaction with multiple areas of life, financial stability contributing a small piece of a much larger and more diverse whole.  You can be successful personally, emotionally, academically.   And it got me thinking about everything that’s changed this year.  I looked back on my new year’s resolutions from January this year the other day, and some of my goals included furthering my education, becoming more emotionally stable, less dependent on having a significant other and spending far more time with friends and family.  To grow as a person and feel like I’ve lived a more enriching life.  And looking back on the last 9 or so months, I can definitely say I’ve achieved that.

I’ve always considered myself a lover of literature, arts, creativity and academia in general.  I may not have been able to afford to go back to school, but it hasn’t stopped me researching the world of graphic design and learning enough to be able to start my own little side “business” if you will, with enough interest so far that it’s paid for my ticket to Los Angeles this winter.  I’ve made wonderful new friends and re-established connections with old ones and spent some amazing times with them this year.  I’ve met someone wonderful and our difficult schedules have made the scarce time we do get together absolutely cherished.  I’ve accomplished a lifelong goal and visited Ireland and seen sights I’ve wanted to since I was a small child.  So I think in terms of overall personal success – I can say I’m pretty happy with where I am.

This was quite the thought-provoking bike ride this morning.  And it just made me wonder about how often we think outside our own little boxed in lives of work and sleep and school.  How often do we question the general definition of things such as success? How often does it enter our heads to think of what’s happening in the world, right now outside our own lives?  There’s people out there learning, there’s people out there travelling to see amazing sights.  There’s people running companies so big that one wrong decision could change the way we live. There’s people dreaming of incredible ideas and bringing them into our lives through movies or shows to be made in the future.  There’s people dreaming of making science fiction science fact and changing our perception of reality. There’s people coming into the world, leaving the world, and overcoming enormous obstacles.  And it’s all happening right now.

I found this web site that has a live statistic of things like births, deaths, crimes, etc.  Click on “now”. It kind of puts your own life into perspective.