Defining "Success"

The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Earlier I spoke – in very particular terms – of the competitive nature of college admissions, namely in the form of transfer students seeking appropriate universities where they’ll seek their bachelor’s degree or beyond.

Such a trajectory paints a very academic picture of “success”, where the goal is to pursue more education than you’ve already had, with the end objective being a high-paying job that’s otherwise unattainable.

But the reality of the matter is that “success” is what you make of the term. I’ve heard this explanation a sufficient amount of times, from a sufficiently diverse amount of people, to know that it has some veracity to it.

Take Holden from J.D. Salinger‘s Catcher in the Rye, a wayfarer that couldn’t succeed in school or organized life; but still aspired to an ideal state of existence: a “catcher in the rye” who would save children from hurting themselves whilst playing atop a fictitious hilltop. His moment of inner peace comes when he sees Phoebe riding on a carousel, an instance that gets him as close as possible to his aspiration.

Take singing bus drivers, very merry mailmen, jolly gardeners in the heat … all occupations that don’t need academia to exist. As evidenced by some of their practitioners, they’re as likely to foment fulfillment and happiness in them as the white collar jobs so highly esteemed.

Because after all, that’s the start and end point of “success”: fulfillment. When human beings eat, they take pleasure in eating to the point of a perceived “fullness”, at which they’re gastronomically satisfied. When they entertain, they wish to reach an apex of engagement and good feeling in their audience.

Likewise, in their pursuit of success, they seek a sense of being full, of being whole, of not feeling pressured to fill voids in their lives. Whether that comes from a college degree or driving a twenty-four hour bus route is one’s own decision to make.

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