I was never a person that knew precisely where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do in life.  My childhood dreams ranged from being a police officer, fire fighter, ballerina, business executive, coder, designer, director, and pretty much anything I could think of.  Of course, this made choosing a college and a major almost impossible.  By then I was split between being an astronaut, film school, and engineering.  One common theme I had in all of my dreams, though, was to be successful.  No matter what I did, I wanted to excel in it and succeed.  My old definition for success was a bit more involved than being good at what I do.  When I was younger, success meant making an impact on the world in any positive way that I could.  I wanted everyone in the world to know me.  I wanted to be influential.  So if I was a police officer, I wanted to rescue people.  If I was an astronaut, I wanted to pioneer a mission to Mars.

And then I grew up and realized that things just aren’t that simple.  There’s the opinions of those you care about, influencing you to do what they feel is best.  There’s money.  Money can either make life simpler, or cripple you for the rest of your life.  There’s limitations physically, mentally, and financially.  Of course some people work hard enough and have just enough luck to accomplish the exact same dreams that I have, and that sparks an incredible amount of jealousy.  Jealousy can be just as crippling as any other limitation.  I would know, since I have been jealous of many people and their success.

Sometimes these setbacks can work as motivators.  Wanting to obtain what others think is impossible can help make progress.  Even jealousy, at times, is a motivator.  Although, when working off of jealousy, I stop pursuing goals for the sake of self fulfillment and pursue them to spite others.  I have never been able to make good progress off of jealousy alone.

I somehow stumbled upon a path that I believed could bring me my success.  For those of you who follow me regularly, you know that I am a programmer, but that I also write on the side.  But with the flooded writing market, and extreme competition, it’s almost an impossible goal to make a lasting impression on the world through writing.

It’s very discouraging to feel that no matter how hard I try, I will never be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do.

And then I went to Fiji.

I’m not saying that laying on the Fijian beach was so cathartic that it changed my view on life, although I’ll admit the ocean and beaches were beautiful.  No, the most influential experience was staying in a local village of the natives.

As a girl that loves air conditioning, clean water, privacy and space, I’m ashamed to admit that I was borderline disgusted when I saw the village I was to stay in.  Dilapidated tin and cement buildings built around dirt pathways, with wild dogs roaming around.  I’m not kidding about the dogs — they really were wild.

But the people, oh, the people were so happy.  If I had met them on the street, I never would have guessed that they lived in a little house with tin walls.  We had a welcome ceremony where everyone drank a bowl of kava.  Kava is an amazingly weird tasting root drink that makes your mouth go numb after the first bowl.

My friend and I went to the house we were assigned to spend time with our Fijian family.  It was such a strange, surreal experience.  We ate with our hands and laid on the floor, literally for hours just speaking with Kenny (I think that was a nickname used for our sake) and his friend, who we nicknamed Bob Marley.  He really did look like Bob Marley.  I found out that Kenny had built the house himself when he got married.

Although Kenny was laid back, he had some wise insights.  He told us that he lived like a King, even though he didn’t have any money.  He had a family, he had many friends, and he never had to spend time away from his family to work.  They enjoyed all of their evenings together, staying up late around a kava bowl.  The sun streamed steadily into the little house, and the breeze was strong enough that the air felt perfect inside.  Dogs would walk up to the open door, stand there, and then leave again.  He got us oranges right off of the tree.  Neighbors would just walk inside, sit down, and share some food.  Everyone knew everyone, and it didn’t really matter that there was such a large world with so many people, violence, and problems.

I realized he was right.  In fact, Kenny had it better than a King.  A king would have to be responsible for so many people, and would be involved in so much political drama, and couldn’t spend nearly as much time with his family as Kenny did.

It blew my mind. My time with Kenny’s family challenged my view of success. Just because I don’t reach out to everyone, doesn’t mean I failed my life goal.  It would be amazing to have a positive impact on the world, and if I ever get to that point I’ll make the most I can of it.  But it’s the little things, the family, the friends, the community, the appreciation of life that really determines true success.

So now I focus on doing what I love, and doing it for the right reasons.  And of course,  I spend lots of time with the people that mean the world to me.

I am only 21, and I feel successful already.