When do I find out if I'm a success in life? Do I receive a candy-gram, or does someone deliver balloons to my door? Will they throw confetti and sing "For she's a jolly good...whatever"? I just want to know when I get the report card, or the certificate, or the plaque to hang on my wall? And most of all, who gets to say whether I'm a success?
Am I a success as a homeschooler? Who gets to say? What are the parameters? Where is the checklist so I can see how I'm doing? Am I a success if my children graduate from high school, or only if they do so with good grades and a college scholarship? Are they "successful people" if all they do is sit and play video games or have we all failed miserably?
Am I a successful mom? Who gets to say? Where is the yardstick for comparison? Am I successful if my kids are polite in public, or only if they do volunteer work for the poor or go on missions trips?
And what about relationships? Am I a success if I have people I can smile at and make small talk with at church, or does success require soul-mate status with at least one other person?
How about career? How about success as a house keeper, cook, homemaker, teacher?
Everything, everything, everything seems to be dependent on input from outside. How do we know who we are sometimes without input? We are all like "Number 5" in the movie Short Circuit, wanting "More input, Steph-an-ie!" Without it, we don't seem to know what to think about ourselves. It seems that in a world that is more and more detached from community and extended families, we are more and more dependent outside input to know who were are and how we are doing.
In fact, I wonder if the very detachment from the solid foundations of community and family have left the void in the first place. These anchors in the past secured our place in life, even if it also limited our possibilities. Losing, or breaking free, of the anchors has proved a mixed-bag. I'm reminded again of The Paradox of Choice by Schwartz. Having more choices doesn't always make us happier.
This past week I've been trying to come to grips with a son who has blown his final year of high school, and who shows no lasting ability to concentrate on the future. I don't feel like a success, and he doesn't look like one. Yet, even as I worry and fret, I know the heart in that young man. I know not just what "could be, if only," I also know what is, right now. So each day is a balancing act of trying not to let any measure of "success" be how I look at him, or myself either. Especially now, as his friends get ready for college, have graduation that laud their many merits and successes, and as proud parents talk about the scholarships and the plans for "great things." I am here praying my sweet boy will find his way in the maze he has, in part, created for himself. (With a little too much help from his parents, perhaps.)