Singapore, 15 April 2018
This post is not philosophical. It is not a debate about what success really means. It is just that I have not written for quite a while and I want to take this time out to have a self-reflection, asking myself what I truly mean when I say I want to be successful in future. It is even a question of whether success is what I really desire or my ultimate goal is something else that is misinterpreted in a single, blur, equivocal word “success.”
Nobody dreams of a life full of debacles. Nobody wishes to end up with fiascoes. Nobody desires failure. I suppose everyone is longing for success.
My 10-year-old-self defines success as simple as being ended up living a life just similar to that of my cousin. Getting into Hanoi Amsterdam High School for the gifted and studying abroad in Canada just like my cousin was. My cousin was my idol back then. She was my definition of success. Success was naively emblazoned according to a specific role model, having a specific type of life, going to a specific kind of places, and experiencing a specific bunch of life experience. The definition of success invented by a 10-year-old kid was, in fact, a propaganda unknowingly inherited and ingrained through a Confucianist tradition family.
Growing up a little bit, I came to a realization that the role model built after my sister was not perfect. Indeed, nobody is. My cousin has her own problems to solve, concerns to worry, and suffering to be inured to. My definition of success, as a result, has changed. There was this question I had when I realized this brutal and heart-wrenching fact. “How come such a successful person like my cousin is not happy and satisfied with her life? Why she has to constantly live under undue stress and depression?” Then what, after all, constitutes success?
The simplest answer that I had to my question back then is getting accepted into a good overseas university or getting a chance to study abroad. I didn’t think much about what I really meant when I say I desire a successful life because all I ever wanted to do back then was to prove myself deserving of people’s respect and recognition. I forgot the importance of answering the question for a while and proceeded with whatever goal I set for myself at that time: getting into a good overseas college.
My 4 years in college had been so far well-spent. I had chances to do voluntary works and motivate underprivileged kids not to drop out of schools and continue their education regardless of difficulties. The time spent in rural areas in Danang was arguably the most memorable time in my student life. I am genuinely happy and incredibly grateful for being able to experience that. For a short while, I suddenly feel the rush of life fulfilment with meaning vigorously and vividly flow in my blood vessels. How galvanized I was, I, without any hesitation, jumped right to an innocuous conclusion: a successful life is a life that is able to help as many people as possible. That is actually the life that I desire to live.
However, wakening up to the brutal slap of cold-hearted reality, I feel powerless since what possibly can I do to help others without being able to independently and financially sustain myself? 6-month internship in Beijing further stiffens my belief that financial success is a necessary condition for an overall successful life. It also accidentally puts me through a unique and delusional experience of invincibility when one is bestowed upon enough money power to have the “I can f*cking do anything I wish to” attitude. The experience was actually great. I feel like it makes my mind function with an infinite capacity. The experience even makes me feel like I can imbibe the world’s million years of knowledge in just one night. It boosts my self-confidence and bolsters my self-esteem. However, great delusional experience comes at a great cost. Money and power are awfully addictive. If indulged for too long in the kingdom of unlimited power and money, it is easy for one person, previously decent, to lose track of his or her own self-worth, core value and morality. After all, I thought, having a personal core value and morality unshakable amidst the storm of power and financial temptation is now more important than a full-fledged definition of success.
Then whatever comes will come, the question now is “getting into a good overseas college, about to graduate already, then what?” The honest answer is, for now, I have no idea. A 22-year-old money craving person will define success along the line of monetary terms. I am no exception. There was a time I thought that money correlates with success. It is not quite the exact attribute of success but it is a quintessential characteristic that successful people possess. But this definition comes at a great cost of mental health and self-esteem. If success is measured only by the amount of monthly or yearly salary of a job offer upon graduation, I will spend the rest of my life thinking I am such a loser because while my best my friend has now secured a job in an investment banking with a yearly pay of $180,000 US dollars, I am still here spending time jotting down my thoughts.
The most candid answer I can give to myself, at this point of time, and I think it is good to be staying true to myself, is that I do not have a clear understanding of what I want in life. Maybe right now the best I can do is to try my best to get into a reputable company, with a decent financial independence, and let nature takes its course afterwards. There will be chances I will figure it out somehow in future. But for now, I will set a short-term goal, just like what I did in the past, and wait for future to reveal itself.
Don’t get me wrong. I have not given up on my dream of helping as many people with their life as possible. That’s my final, ultimate life goal. But how I can possibly achieve the goal is still open to discovering.
Life is not about waiting the storm to pass but it’s about learning how to dance in the rain