wanting what you own and owning what you want

Though it never noticed you arrived, one doesn’t forget their first year in New York. You were a kitten. You know it.

I remember being a blank slate. I wasn’t sure about anything and I was happy to have the city leave its mark. Mostly, I remember not understanding “success.” So, I did what I could by watching my banker friends from the sidelines as I adopted their views from a distance.

Looking back, what I did my first year in NY was no different than what I did in college. Without purpose or direction, I saw a format and I followed it. I felt lost, but I figured that eventually something would snap. Naturally, I adopted other’s big ideas and allowed them to guide me. At the time, I happen to be close with someone very genuine. His ideas of success were very different from mine and I was fortunate enough to have had our theories mix. Where I had casually adopted notions, he had placed deep thought. Where he had simple plans, I had New York ambition in mind. Soon enough, purpose and heart joined my ambition at the dinner table.

Over the years, professional and personal experiences helped redefine success for me. My ambition never faded, but my strive for purpose took on a life of its own. As it grew, it brought on a great deal of discomfort in my life; there is no growth without pain and my steps were getting too big for the shoes I wore.

“One of the interesting things about success is that we think we know what it means. A lot of the time our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people. And we also suck in messages from everything from the television to advertising to marketing, etcetera. These are hugely powerful forces that define what we want and how we view ourselves. What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.” ~Alain de Botton

I felt lost for a long time, like a greedy little ant that had gone back for extra cake and broken off from the pack. I now understand that I was “on track” the entire time. There are so many ideas that were ingrained in my system and I realize now that none of them were mine. However, they served a purpose; these ideas created the format that I worked against. It was the “scratch” that I started from and in the end, it was my special starting place. The format I had adopted somehow catered to my own fears and comforts. I needed to break off from that specific mold because it was the very format that I was susceptible to at the time.

It’s not only the idea of success that we need to redefine. It’s everything. The format we are addicted to, the idea of failure, … the whole enchilada has to be re-evaluated, even your default thoughts. My first year in New York, I adopted all these big ideas, only to reevaluate each of them almost immediately. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t matter where you start from because it’s your special start.

A few years ago, I got a job that I had worked and asked for. Basically, I got what I “wanted” only to realize that I didn’t want it at all. All of my ideas of success had come together to explode in my face. It was TERR-I-BLE. It was then that I broke away and began to re-evaluate my wants. It takes time, but it’s worth it once you start to feel the difference.

The way that life works, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes, you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities, and you’re going to lose a lot of battles, but all these things you can take. Life teaches us how to stomach loss. However, some of us forget that we might actually get what we want and what happens when you do?

Make sure that the opportunities that you do get and the battles you do win are the ones that you want.

Very few people will understand what success means to me. Very few people will understand what success means to you. I guess it’s a lot like love. You just know, you know?

We don’t get to choose the things we don’t get, but trust me—you choose the things you do. So choose them. Don’t wrap up the world’s probabilities or the odds. Forget about the place you came from or where you’re standing now…let the wish stand alone. Let the word success mean something. To you.

To all the blank slates, aqui los espero…



About Antonella Saravia

Antonella is a freelance writer. Graduated from Purdue University, Antonella is based out of New York City and Nicaragua, where she was raised. Follow her via Twitter @tonesaravia & Instagram via @tsaravia.

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