I was selected to be featured at an event this weekend in Columbus. As a result I was given a list of interview questions for said event. One of which was “What does success mean to you?”
I was on my iPhone on Derek’s porch about one-and-a-half beers deep when I got the email. I mulled over my answer, still (as much as my brain would allow), before responding.
I’ve often defined “success,” in my brain, as an abstract, fluid idea. Like how Oprah thinks of “God.” Not necessarily a dude in a throne above the clouds, but an ever-evolving spirit or presence. Success means a variety of things to a variety of people, at a variety of times.
But without getting too deep—I knew what the interviewer was truly asking. What is that “ultimate” definition? What am I aspiring to? What does “Damn, Kelsea is fucking successful” really look like?
16-year-old Kelsea would’ve said a penthouse in London, an Italian boyfriend, a STACKED bank account, a couple of dogs, and a super laid weave. (Honestly.)
Almost-25-year-old Kelsea offered the following answer:
The “Oh man” was me feeling the weight of that question whilst being semi-inebriated. The “I think we all attach our own abstract definitions to success” was my disclaimer to all who will read this that my definition of success is by no means absolute. And “knowing the my loved ones are proud of me,” was surprisingly very true/honest/vulnerable.
I recently spent the day with my grandmother, who, obviously, has no social media or digital presence, and therefore no knowledge into my life other than what my father and other family members tell her. We were having a conversation about my parents and she eluded to my brother being a lot like one of my parents, and me being a lot like the other. I thought her evaluation was super inaccurate, but I’m never going to argue with the matriarch of our family. Ever. So I chuckled it off.
Then she went on about how much growing up I have yet to do and how “we all” still need to look out for me. Little baby Kelsea. Little naïve, irresponsible Kelsea. (Versus my older brother who requires no looking-after and has always been the pinnacle of responsibility.)
Those well-meaning but insanely harsh words just stung me. In fact, they’re still stinging me as I think about them. I wanted to tell her about how people in the city view me. I wanted to tell her how well my blog is doing, how I’m doing what I love to do for my job, how I pursue my passions on a daily basis—how I’m being featured at THIS event and speaking at THAT event. I have like almost 2,000 LinkedIn connections, Grandma! I have my own apartment and my own career and my own direction! God—I just wanted her to be proud and impressed, ya know?! Why does not see me the way I see me?!
And that’s when the words of someone far smarter than I crept into my frontal lobe.
“Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.”
― Cynthia Kersey
So… I would be lying if I said I didn’t have an attitude the rest of the day that I spent with my grandmother—because I definitely did. But in retrospect, I think that’s what grandmas are for. To keep my ego in check. To remind me who I was not too long ago. And to push me to continue down the path of success so that one day, no one, not even Grandma Rose, can deny how great I am.
What does success mean to you?