Success and happiness… what’s that?

I’ll finish this later.

The past week or so, I’ve been struck by two realizations: I’m happy. I’m successful.

Both things I’ve striven for, made plans, measured, scheduled. And then let go. Not consciously. I thought, I’ll revisit that later. Right now I have pressing things to attend to. I’ll get back to my attempts to meditate and exercise. I’ll make time to be creative. I’ll plan my meals and budget. I’ll work on those portfolio boosting side projects. Later.

I am a people pleaser. I have this mental illness that tells me that how other people feel is my responsibility. The flip side of this is being a control freak. So when I help others, it’s a high flying rush of oxytocin for me. When I upset someone or don’t meet their expectations, I feel like I should just die. It’s a real problem. There were years when I felt I should just die. But I couldn’t die, I was responsible for too much. So I trudged on, grew a thick skin, and desperately tried to be what others needed. Somehow, through the coaxing of a very special someone, some very good books, and perseverance on my part, I realized beyond anything I’d been told that the drama was in my mind. I said some dumb things during this mental transition, while I felt out this paradigm shift. I upset some people, and wanted to die. I was pretty sure I was actually crazy. That’s what got me into meditation. Shut up mind. You’re pretty good at bubbling up ideas, but uncontrolled, you will be my undoing.

But yesterday, I hired someone.

At the office, we desperately needed someone else to do this work we’d been dangerously putting off. So I put my feelers out, got a lead, met for lunch, invited her to meet the CEO, and now she has her first assignment. At the interview I hardly had to say anything, which is great for me. She had a stunning portfolio that gave me confidence that she was just what we needed. My colleague had all the best questions. The whole experience was so smooth and pleasant, that afterwards I was a little dumbfounded. I remembered that time when I got this brilliant guitar player I knew to go meet this band I loved, and he proceeded to tour with them. I remembered the time I led a multimedia project in college and got the poor kid who was desperately needed at home to do the soundtrack and deliver by email, and put the clear slacker on the nice-to-haves, resulting in a product that exceeded the expectations of the charity it was for, and allowed for everyone (even the slacker) to get what they needed from the class.

I didn’t go to school to be a manager, though. I didn’t even go to school to be a Software Developer, which I am now. I went to school for Web Design. How 2000 of me.

Why “I’m happy” strikes me so much is that I spent the majority of my life depressed, wondering “why can’t I be happy???”

The first time I thought “I’m happy! I’m really happy! This is what it feels like!” was when my first child was born. Reality set in though, and depression came back after a short hiatus. I got a shot of bliss with the second child, and believe me, a lot of gleeful moments, but I was never very far away from self loathing. Parenting is rewarding in small ways over a long period of time. Most of it is filled with feelings of failure and doubt. I wonder if that’s a thing I’ll ever feel the rush of success over. Part of the reason I went from being a freelancer with kids to a full-time job was to feel successful at something.

At this moment, I’m happy and successful because I did something different. Instead of beating myself up for not doing the work no one wanted to do, I found someone who would see the work as a great opportunity. And this is during a time when the company has hardly any money to spend. I didn’t think about it too much, I just did it. Everything fell into place. Wow.

Why “I’m successful” strikes me so much is that success isn’t what I thought it was.

I thought I had to work hard and produce something amazing and tangible. I thought I had to make a certain amount of money. Enough money to be comfortable in a nice house and also give money away. (And now that I’ve said that… I realize that I am comfortable in a nice house and I give money away. It just doesn’t look like the picture I had in my mind.) Now I know that success is doing what I love and getting recognition for it. It turns out that what I love is simply helping people. I’m happy when I help people in a way that doesn’t cast me aside. This is so exciting to me, because helping people takes so many forms. I don’t even need to make a major life change; I can just keep doing what I’m doing, and do it for me.

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