Measurements of Success

I’m en route home from a week long celebration of my grandmother’s 90th birthday (go here! www.bettyreuben.com). As I write these words I’m sitting across from Sim at the airport terminal and decompressing from the buoyancy of being with many, many, many loved ones and the inevitable cacophony of every extended family gathering.

In the days leading up to the trip I had angst filled moments and anxiety ridden days wondering how I could explain my life trajectory over the past summer in one short quip to answer the question, What’s up with you these days?, and any variation thereof. None really came to mind until the moment I was actually asked. As I sat across from a second-cousin at the Yom Kippur break-the-fast the words fell from my mouth before my mind had thought them over. I’m in transition, I answered. It was the most honest and most ambiguous answer ever. And thus, perfect.

“Transition” perfectly clouded the vulnerable truth that I just don’t know what’s up right now except that I’ve been very deliberately making space for something – exactly what I don’t know either. What I do know is that many days and nights have been spent wide eyed, bleary eyed, or teary eyed over-thinking my life course and how to craft a path of certainty for my future.

Back in San Diego at my cousin Seth’s house there was another celebration going on beside Grandma’s birthday. The recent birth of his fourth book – a glossy, academic and highly entertaining coffee table book guide (who knew such a thing existed?) of the history of San Diego State through its artifacts (he’s an archaeologist and popular anthropology professor/totally awesome). I loved thumbing the pages, reading his narratives and looking at the photos. But something piercing sat in me as I realized I was no where close to producing anything like that book. Not even close. I mean, I’m not even pretending to be preparing for the GREs!

Of course, my family tells me all the time that whatever I choose to do they will support me 100%. (And they have). Every last one of them has let me know they want me to find my own successful path, wherever it leads. But I can’t help but feel the pull and tug towards intellectual and academic pursuits. My mom, my uncle, and a couple cousins are all published authors multiple times over. Nearly everyone in my extended family has at minimum a master’s degree (or two).  It’s jarring to think I may be a lone gray goose of white swan stock.

But then, just as I began a dizzing descent into self-flaggelation for being oh-so mediocre I was shockingly reminded of why my perception of my family pressures has been far more limiting to me than my family members have ever actually been. My cousin said to me one morning before a full day with our extended tribe of authors, professors, professionals, and intellectuals, “Your success will be measured in happiness…not in degrees or books or anything else. And you can teach us alot about happiness.” It was the sweetest blessing he could have offered. And the one statement that instantly obliterated all of the unnecessary self-judgment that had become my constant companion. As hot tears neared my eyes, I had to change the subject but the grace of his statement remains with me now as I think over the past week. And a great reminder of why I do so love this family and am endlessly proud to be a part of it.

My mission, as always, is to share my joy for living with whomever I encounter. My purpose is to inspire the same joy in them and to be a beacon of light on their path. Whatever it takes, wherever it takes me, I trust in this purpose and its guidance. So far, I’m doing alright.

xoxo,

Natanya

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