I live at the top of a pretty steep hill. It’s a great excuse to not take a walk and an obvious metaphor for life — what if I get down and can’t get back up again?
I always thought I’d be successful and famous. I was going to be an Academy Award-winning actor. Then, when I lost interest in performing, I was going to be the world’s most beloved doula. When I no longer wanted to be on call all the time, I decided to be a literary giant, leaving behind novels that would alter the course of history. Since I never write, I’m thinking that probably won’t happen. I’m seeing a pattern here, and by my own definition I am a complete failure.
Today I decided to stuff my sixty-year-old body into yoga pants, and with my trusty walking stick I call Sheilagh took off to bravely conquer the hill that is my street. I veered off onto the Angeles Crest Trail and walked fifteen minutes up and then fifteen back while the song Climb Every Mountain played over and over in my head. It was getting really irritating, so I decided to do the unthinkable and think thoughts. This idea of success and failure has been looming large, so I decided to check in with it and see what it had to say. I asked myself, “If you died today on this trail clutching your heart because you haven’t exercised in two years would you be happy with the life you led?” The answer was — yes. And the reason came to me quite clearly: I would be missed. I really can’t want more out of life than for people to want me to be a part of theirs.
I’m happy to tell you I made it back up the street to my house. When I got there, a man was sitting on the curb rubbing what I thought was his bandaged knee. “Good job,” I said. “It’s a tough hill.” “Yes,” he replied. Then he removed his prosthetic leg. “Oh! Really good job,” I said stupidly. Luckily he laughed, and I made my way into the house to further contemplate the definition of success. I don’t know that man on my curb but I will never forget him. If, like him, I can live a life that shows people beauty, adaptability, courage, and the ability to never stop climbing the hill, then I will continue to be a person worth missing. That is my new definition of success. It’s such a relief! I’m in control of whether or not I feel successful. I love being in control. I’m a success!