“What’s one of your proudest moments of success?”

My life beside his daughter’s: my dizzying, random, unstable, hopeful, eyes-closed journey versus a 12 year old’s clear A-Z agenda, a list (er, a novel) of accomplishments, knowledge-savvy goals, well rounded plans, papers to match, frames on the wall, and a beaming mom. What do I say to that? What can I possibly follow up with about myself that can fuel the motor of this conversation?

I remember I used to really brag about how I went from a 47% to an 83% in math class… this was almost my favourite icebreaker story. It was one of my bigger feelings of accomplishment in life, but somehow it doesn’t sound as good out loud (or written) anymore.

It crushed me a little bit to recognize that someone has, or will have, done me one better. The only question I ask myself now is whether or not I should be placing myself in this competitive race I am not qualified to run for… a race I dont know if I’m even interested in winning.

My “accomplishments” thus far are really not objectively exceptional; I don’t try to fight the truth of this. Am I pleased by mediocrity? Well, no…but I think this “race” to be great in every facet of life tends to overlook and undermine one’s achievements aside from their actual goal. To work hard is just “standard”, to progress is “a good sign”, to troubleshoot is a “good skill” and being happy all along the way is a “nice bonus”, but I suppose none of it counts as succeeding until you reach your end goal.

It begs the question of what the in-between counts for. To say that I made huge progress sounds pretty good, but I still failed to get an A, and I failed to get a scholarship and document for doing so. Should this entire thing be deemed as a failure then? 83% is generally a pretty mediocre if not a disappointing grade…yet it still felt grand. Because I had hit rock-bottom-face-first somewhere in the process, my humble 83 granted teenage-me, for the first time in my life, a feeling of great confidence in myself and my learning capability.

I don’t have a framed document to boast that failure taught me to pull myself out of my own problem pool successfully. We all have to do it, for all sorts of life problems…and having your shit fall apart is as inevitable as it is necessary. Accepting and adapting to failure is one of the greater qualities of the human spirit. I guess you could call it “troubleshooting skills”, or an “improved focus”, a “good attitude”…but I just want to call it a small “success”.

I’m starting to recognize this struggle to find my footing and make peace with all the choices in my life in lieu of so many characters around me exuding this unfamiliar type of success and confidence, the kind that doesn’t waver or snap. Only among them does the question, “What’s one of your proudest moments of success?” feel like an easy question to answer.

Today I didn’t want to tell an accomplished GP that my proudest moment of success was essentially me going from math-failure to being meh-math-mediocre…especially not when I was being juxtaposed with the fascinating string of gifted accomplishments of his 12 year old daughter. But now I think I still should have shared. It was a different kind of success.

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