When I was a kid, all successful people went to college, because if you didn’t, you weren’t a success.
Whatever a success is.
I think it means that you bring home a chunky paycheck, replace your car every three years, make payments on a home with more bathrooms than bedrooms, and eat out three times a week.
My God, I’m a failure. I never felt like one.
I did graduate from college, which theoretically qualifies me for success-hood, but I majored in English and didn’t go on to become a famous journalist the way my high school teachers thought I would. I married a good man, had four fine children, and homeschooled them. We replace our car when it refuses to move another mile, have fewer bathrooms than daughters, and consider it eating out when we dine on the porch.
Oh, and I own goats. That’s never one of the standard qualifications for being a success, but I never, ever have to run to the grocery store to buy milk. Bill Gates couldn’t say that. Well, probably he could, since he probably never, every enters a grocery store for any reason but simply sends the housekeeper, but you know what I mean.
So what am I getting at?
We have a disturbing tendency, in American society, to define ourselves by what we do as opposed to who we are, by how much we make as opposed to how well we live, and we make our decisions accordingly.
And, being Americans who want it all and believe that this is achievable, we want to be rich and famous and important and knowledgeable and healthy and wrinkle free and contented and loved by our dog (loved by our cat never comes into the equation, no matter who or what we are).
And unfortunately, when we realize that we can’t, we’re frequently fine with dropping the “contented” and being loved by our dog part. The money and accolades received by other humans are so vital to the definition of success, that we can be unhappy happy people because we simply don’t realize the value of what we do have.
This is where the goats come in.
The other evening when I was milking them, I became conscious that, for the last 20 minutes, I had been non-stop singing, in rhythm with the motion of milking, deep and thought provoking verses like this:
“Ba-dah-ba-dum-dum-dum (squirt-squirt), Ba-dah-ba-dummmmm,”
and I thought,
“I never realized this, but I’m happy.”
I’m not rich, I’m not famous, I’m not powerful, I’m sitting on a broken chair next to a goat, and though I don’t have to buy milk at the grocery store I also don’t have a housekeeper to send there to buy bananas.
But I’m happy.
And if success is what makes people happy, then I guess that I’m very, very successful, and since I sing when I milk the goats, it must mean that, somehow, owning goats is an essential part of being a success.
I suppose it’s as good of a definition as any.
Don’t let me box you in. If you don’t own goats, or don’t have more bathrooms than you do bedrooms, or don’t have a housekeeper to send to the store to buy — or not buy — milk, you can still be a success.
You just have to redefine the word into something worth achieving.
Coming soon — my new book, Live Happily on Less: 52 Ideas to Renovate Your Life and Lifestyle. Saving money does not have to be a convoluted, difficult process — and it can actually be fun.
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In the meantime, you can read more of me through Life Is a Gift (Kindle), The Jane Austen Driving School (Kindle), and Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?”