Success is measured in many different ways by many different people. What some might consider being successful, others may view as trifling. It’s all a matter of setting goals and achieving them, and being content with how far you’ve come in your journey.
I’m standing in the kitchen of my one bedroom apartment, eating a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli, over the sink, right out of the can. And you know what? I’m feeling pretty successful right now. Oh sure, other people might scoff; there are people out there with houses and jobs and families, there are people who have prestigious awards on their shelves and diplomas on their walls from Ivy League institutions.
And I’m standing here, in a small apartment, in my underpants, eating canned food over a sink, thinking I’m successful. What could possibly be considered successful about that? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s not so much the destination, which I’ll admit falls a little short of a lot of other people’s achievements, but the road taken. I’ve had a lot to overcome in my life, a lot more than most people. So the fact that I’m here doing this right now is a testament to my sheer force of will and ability to overcome obstacles.
From the moment I was born, there were major obstructions in my path to any kind of success. I couldn’t walk or talk, I couldn’t even sit up. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was often unable for several years of my life to go even a day without uncontrollably vomiting. Often onto other people. It doesn’t seem like such a minor accomplishment to be standing here, eating canned pasta over the sink, now does it? Or that so far I’m managing to do it without smearing the tomato sauce all over my face and head?
Do you think many CEOs of multimillion dollar companies had to go for years of their lives needing help just to burp properly after a meal? Let’s not kid ourselves. How many Pulitzer Prize-winning authors do you think had to struggle for years to learn even one language? I didn’t know how to speak any languages when I was born. It’s no easy task to try to work your way up the social ladder when you can’t express to someone that you’re terribly sorry, but you need to be excused for a moment without resorting to urgently shouting about how much poo is in your butt.
Now, I’m not trying to say that no one else has suffered setbacks or hardships, but to be besotted with so many from such an early age must be fairly unique to my experience. I know that many great minds have struggled with substance abuse and addiction, often for many years. I experienced this as well. Until I was forced to wean off it, I was nursing a breast milk habit that took root and didn’t let go from day one.
Think about that. From the day I was born until the last drop I drank a couple years later, I didn’t go one day without the stuff. Now talk to me about habitual substance use. And just because I quit, doesn’t mean the experience had no lasting effect on me. To this day I think about breasts several times in any given hour. How many successful men can you say that about?
The picture is starting to come together now, isn’t it? Standing at the sink in an apartment I rent myself, eating a can of Chef Boyardee. A man who once could not even get onto his own two feet under his own power, now maintaining that stance for minutes at a time; A man who once could not go for mere moments without supervision, now living alone in a sensible apartment. A man who was, at one time, unable to eat solid food, now feeding himself mid-priced brand name processed canned foods with a fork.
With all that information, my accomplishments seem a lot more remarkable now, don’t they? I thought so. And I’d really like to flesh out the background story even a little more for you, but I went poop in my pants from eating so much Chef Boyardee and now I have to go wash up and put myself down for a nap. The road goes ever on.
Photo by Johnny Scott