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01 May 2015

“I am Proud to Have Failed You:" What is Success?

When I encounter some former classmates, former co-workers, and acquaintances, either in person or on Facebook, eventually, they tend to tell me about their successful lives, most often, indirectly.

“Let’s meet up. You can drive to my place. Oh, do you have a car? I can’t believe you still don’t have a car. Anyway, tell me where I can pick you up.”

These people post pictures of their fabulous vacations around the world and tag me as if I were dying to see their faces blocking the beauty of Taj Mahal. It does make you wonder how a spectacular monument has to take a backseat over a face that you can see on any given day.

I also encounter former co-workers who are still baffled as to why I continue to stay in our old company. One person said,

“You’re still there. My God, haven’t you moved on? Your loyalty is already a disease.”

Meanwhile, they labor 10 to 15 hours a day while I only work four hours and I have enough free time to write, do photography and look after my mother. Still, in their eyes, I have stagnated.

I noticed that if you do not have the trappings of wealth like a car or the latest digital gadgets, you are not successful. If you do not often travel abroad, live in a posh residence, have a high-paying high profile job, you have not really made it big. A happy kindergarten teacher seems to be no match to a corporate manager driving the company car on his way to Bonifacio Global City.

Jessica Lange at PaleyFest 2013 
for the TV show "American 
Horror Story: Asylum" 
(15 March 2013) by iDominick.
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When I encounter this braggadocios, I am reminded of a quote from my favorite actor Jessica Lange,

“Don’t constrain yourself with expectations of success. Success will be the by-product of the life you live and all successes are individual.”

In a way, Jessica Lange, a maverick and perhaps one of the most unpredictable American thespians, is my inspiration and model. Some people claim that she could have had a bigger career that would rival that of Meryl Streep. Many of her fans will certainly disagree because Lange's career is phenomenal but she has rejected Oscar-worthy roles to pursue projects that are more personal so she could have more time with her family and focus on her other hobbies such as photography, civil rights and the environment.  Like me, she had a plan but life took her on a different journey. As she said in her commencement speech at Sarah Lawrence College,

“Sometimes, you just have to let life take you on its glorious journey.”

Lange also brilliantly encapsulated our time with the following statements:

“You’ve come of age in a complex and confusing time: the commercial forces surrounding you, the absence of meaningful culture, the constant assault by media, fashion and entertainment. We’ve become a society that is placated by gadgets, soothed by consumerism, and the empty rewards of upward mobility, the celebration of mediocrity and false celebrity, the obscuration of modern life. We need a sea change so I encourage you not to buy into it. Defy convention and what is expected of you. Create your own definition of success. Don’t let it be judged or guided by someone else’s measurement, by someone else’s expectations or limitations.”

Do I need the latest gadgets? Do I have to re-join the rat race and get as high as I can and forget who I am all over again? Do I have to participate in perpetuating mediocrity and patronizing false celebrities? Do I need to own expensive possessions? Do I need to spend thousands of pesos to travel when I can do it cheaply with friends?

Yes! If each of my acquaintance measures me with his or her own yardstick of success, I will fail each one. However, I am proud to have failed their measurements as I quote Jessica Lange’s line in “American Horror Story (Coven)”

“You can all just die.”

I also highly recommend that you define success on your own terms because based on my experience; nothing pisses off insecure “successful” people than being happily indifferent to their success.

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