Earlier this month I stood in for a maths teacher at a high school. All went well, except for one boy, who I just couldn’t get through to. On the last day he had a few things to say to me again after I had sent him to the principal, the one thing he said that made me realise that my brain can and will drain from my ears and nose was “watch me succeed as I watch you fail” The conversation stopped there, I was not talking to this little man anymore. I remember a girl, very misunderstood, very angry and hurt but most of all, bitter. She said pretty much the same thing at high school, even at primary school, but not out loud. She said it of her fellow classmates, her teachers and the silly boys who broke her heart…
I went on to study chemical engineering after school and finished in four years first class, worked for Sasol, did well financially, lived the life… Then darkness came, it had been lurking around since I can remember, popped its head out a few times even, but September 2010, my Bipolar came out with a song, dance and flashing lights. Long story short (and if you want to know more let me know) I left Sasol, couldn’t really do the whole corporate world thing anymore. Along with Sasol, the salary, house, dogs, sports car and frivolous shopping left the party as well (quite unceremoniously I might add). Suddenly success was in need of redefinition.
I knew leaving Sasol was the right thing to do, and I knew that for the first time in ages I was truly happy. I knew I would have to be very innovative and courageous in facing my new financial situation but most of all, I had peace. I started thinking a lot about what carries value for me, and what defines me. I gave a lot of my shiny dress up, traded it in for comfortable shoes, ready for the challenge.
Back to little mister hoo-ha, In that moment when he threatened my success, I was so overwhelmed by the direct assault, I didn’t know how to respond. I knew one thing though; that he was wrong, that I had already succeeded in the world’s eyes, and gave it up to find authentic ever burning success.
Many conversations in my head later I was able to define what I now view as success; To continually grow in wisdom, hope and charity.
The first point I want to make of my new definition of success is that it is independent of the circumstances you find yourself in. You can always learn from your mistakes, you can always pray and ask God for council. In terms of hope, it is and will always remain a choice. Even when your emotions are so cock-eyed that you can’t see lunch never mind tomorrow, you can always make a choice to think hope even if you don’t feel it. And thirdly charity, I must here first ensure that we are thinking about the same thing, you see most people today think charity refers to giving alms to the poor, that is true, but that is a very played down version of what this word entails. A better definition is a Christian love or all humankind. I think we all need a moment to appreciate the awesomeness of this word.
What thrills me about charity is that it is a Christian love, meaning it gets its directive from Christ, hence my own human frailty cannot limit this love in me, I do not generate it like a steam engine rearing for a journey into the world. It flowers at the right time and spreads its scent to all who surrounds it. It is as much a pleasure to me as it is to my fellow man.
The last point I want to drive home about my new found definition of success, is that what if someone should say “but what does these things help you if you cannot feed your family or you do not curb your greed?” My response would be that to truly grow in these virtues, one’s life would have to change. I cannot grow in wisdom and not realize that my spending is controlling me? I cannot grow in charity if I do not lose sleep over my family’s empty stomachs. In short, these three aspects of success will show in your actions, the visible gauges we use to measure success.
I know now that my “success” as a pilgrim in this world is safe in God’s hands, and it is worth all the gold in my hands.