Redefining success, yourself in future plans is empowering

Christine Colleran

My roommate’s father had his daughters trained. At ages seven and five, they knew perfectly well how they were supposed to respond when an all-too-cheery adult leaned inches from their face and asked the predictable question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” On one such occasion, Sarah, age seven, had it down pat. “Anything I want to be!” she answered, with the unquestionable self-assurance of a seven year old know-it-all. The smiling woman turned to Kelly (my roommate) and asked “Well, what do you want to be when you grow up”? Kelly looked up at her, thought about it for a second, and answered: “A frog.”

While Kelly may have ruined her Dad’s shining parental moment, I think she got something right in her response. See – Kelly adored frogs, and continues to love animals to this day. While her answer wasn’t exactly inspiring (as her Dad at hoped), nor a predictable successful position (i.e. doctor, lawyer, teacher), it contained a crucial element that many of us miss when we think about our future. Her answer addressed what she loved.

From a young age we are taught how to identify success in sprawling houses, lavish vacations, and shiny cars. If we are lucky, we get nudged down the path of the least resistance that allows us to obtain it. On this path we find very little love, a small amount of ambition, and a lot of pre-conceived notions. An example of this path exists in the collegiate process, as uncertain undergrads are often advised to pursue business degrees. Why? To start, such a degree makes you marketable and more employable- right when you graduate. My own father, a very successful businessman, attempted to convince me to take the business degree route. I understood his reasoning, and I could see myself tempted to do the same thing for my own children. You want your kids to have the best possible chance to be employed, to succeed. A business degree is an excellent start on that path.

However, I think we may be missing something in taking this fast-track pursuit to success. I am not doubting that some people are very passionate about entering the business world, but I have a feeling that many of us have passions that lie elsewhere. They are tough questions to ask yourself: Am I doing it because I love it? Or, am I doing it because it is safe?

Another roommate of mine switched her major from health communications to photography. Some would call this a risky move. With her health communications degree she probably would have been able to secure employment at a health facility rather quickly upon graduation. However her love for photography is tangible; she is an artist and it is evident in everything that she does. She is not stupid- she picked up a communications minor and knows the avenues in which she is most likely to get a job. But she refused to turn her back on her passions, and now she gets to look forward to utilizing them for the rest of her life.

Maybe it is time to redefine success. Maybe success is knowing what you love, and being able to make it a part of your life and career. Maybe five-year old Kelly, with her love for frogs, is smarter than the rest of us. Ribbit.