Success. Or something like it.

As the eve of my 29th birthday fast approaches, the yearly pensiveness and intensified self-reflection has set in quite nicely. The subject of this year being: my definition of success.

I’ve never really been able to meet society’s neatly bulleted version of it. The education, the spouse, the house, the kids, the job. By the time I figured out what I wanted in order to commit to any of those things, I’d developed different priorities and was already headed another direction.

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As I began my 20’s, I made a decision to “always be living the best year of my life.” Success meant going on new adventures, having more fun, and progressively moving upwards in career choices and financial stability. It was all going really well until I came back from adventuring around the world and had a couple rough years in a row. Transition, instability, the opposite of a career, an inability to meet others’ expectations, little travel: in no way could those years be defined as my best. They certainly didn’t feel best.

I needed a new version of success so I went with the only fruit I could see at the time- that I had learned obedience from what I suffered and had grown closer to God. If I felt I’d followed God’s directives, had stuck out hard times, and had grown in spiritual disciplines, I could check the box and move happily (or rather, somewhat miserably) into the next year. Not too bad.

Enter this year. 28. The year of not hearing the Lord tell me anything directive at all even when I had a clear crossroads on my hands. The year of discovering what burnout feels like. The year of stepping back and forth over the line of apathy and surrender in my walk with God. The year of learning that suffering isn’t the only way to know I’m being obedient. The year of learning that acknowledging my humanness makes salvation taste that much sweeter. The year of learning that brokenness, loss, loneliness, fear, beauty, love, and friendship can all be intertwined and experienced at once, making the phrase “I’m doing good” that much murkier and harder to explain.

It is again a year for redefining success. Even though most of 28 felt like playing Marco Polo in a pool of jello, I actually get the sense that it was still a successful year. Why? Because I stared down all of the things I mentioned earlier and kept moving. Because I became acutely aware of my weaknesses and even discovered a few strengths. I didn’t accomplish much on the outside but I learned, I healed, I grew, and I am once again redefining success.

So here goes, for processing’s sake, a few of the ways I plan to measure success from here on out…

Whether I’m currently in a high or low, am I more dependent on the Lord than I was in the previous season?

Am I being more intentional to express love and be fully present with friends and family?

Do I practice sacrificing my own wants or preferences for people I love and perhaps even for people I don’t?

Am I living more fully from my heart? Am I experiencing joy and pain progressively deeper?

Am I having the hard conversations and holding myself accountable to the things I say?

Am I stewarding my gifts and talents well?

Bottom line, if love is more prevalent in my life than it was before, I’m calling it a win.

Cheers to 29!

candless

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