The “OG” success
For many in my Mother’s generation, success is measured primarily in terms of financial and economic health and sustainability, an underlying motivation of her post-war, post-independence life experience.
Understandably so, considering the tales both Mother and Father have recounted over family dinners — Father had to quit school in his early teenage years, work at the family hawker shop from dawn to dusk, take on part time labourer jobs during the weekends in order to support his younger siblings.
Several particularly gritty tales that stuck with me through my formative years involved the death of an Uncle, who, due to poverty, was unable to receive medical care, and an Aunt who was almost sold for spare cash.
Explains why my parents find it imperative to have their children’s life insurance decked out to the nines, with investments and savings set aside for “a rainy day”.
For them, the ultimate success lies in the ability to ensure their family is never in want for the essentials, and they’ve achieved that after spending most of their lives bending over backwards, working ceaselessly.
By the standards of my home country’s societal norms, the ability to achieve the holy grail 5Cs: Condominium, Cars, Credit Cards, Cash, and Country Clubs, with the likes of real estate moguls setting the bar. Uniquely successful, or outlandish? To each their own.
A casual perusal of my now defunct social media feeds will reveal old classmates’ profiles sporting “sun’s out, guns out” photographs of them caressing their latest BMW purchase, custom fitted rims to match, poorly lighted pictures of their housing deposits made, taken with the latest iPhone “babe got me”, or holiday pictures craftily taken to feature their latest designer bag haul.
No hate though, I’m sure if I got one of those worth-5-month-rent Saint Laurent purses from babe I’d be taking it out for photoshoots and sleeping with it nightly. The point however, as I’ve already subconsciously demonstrated (undoubtedly masked in thick sarcasm), is that unrelenting, begrudging feeling of well, feeling lesser.
Sure, I might not need the lavish lifestyle of my old under-30-millionaire classmates to feel truly fulfilled, but I’d be lying if I didn’t feel the occasional twang of inadequacy (dare I say, envy?) in comparison to them?
And that is the problem.
Yet the markers of success — defined by society, time, or our upbringing — are malleable, much like my bank account balance.
What defines as the epitome of success for one may differ for another.
For my parents, the hallmark of success was being a position without want for the necessities. For those who thrive on the chase for the next new thing, success is a never-ending objective of design that conditions diligence and modesty.
Perhaps for the more adjusted savants preaching about the differences between succeeding and winning, accomplishments of your designation and rigour determine the grandeur of your success.
Would I be truly happier if I scrounged up every last cent I had, digging through relatives’ couches for some spare change to add to the collection, to feel what success feels like with a second-hand Rolex on my wrist?
Today, I find solace in my appreciation for the accomplishments of my endeavours, but tomorrow? Who am I to tell define success for you? Stand proud in the definitions you decide, for:
the man [woman] who succeeds is the man [woman] who is able to reduce problems to their simplest terms and who has the courage of his convictions — despite the objections of intellectuals. The courage to speak, perhaps, even when he believes that what he [she] is suggesting sounds like madness.
Phillip Kerr, A Man Without Breath