I was thinking yesterday about what I defined as success. Success for me, when I was younger was knowing that I could walk into a store and purchase something without worrying that I was going to go without food or shelter. Success was a happy family. Success to me at the time was not so much keeping up with the Joneses (we didn't even have any Joneses in my circle) it was really more about being happy, healthy and having a few nice things. I always wanted to keep my own sense of style and a certain bit of quirkiness as well. Of course there were times in my life that I wanted to have the "big house". I used to go to the Street of Dreams in Oregon and think those houses were what I wanted, but then again those houses were a huge 3000 square feet. The average "Street of Dreams" home now is something like 5000 square feet with no yard. (Or this house, while it is beautiful in many ways, and professionally decorated it is 6500 square feet) I say no thank you. Success was going to be a moderate house, a career I liked the annual two week vacation and the ability to pay for items (no not a Louis Vuitton, but maybe a $100 necklace) without stress. I never dreamed of yachts or private jets. I never dreamed of luxury cars. Maybe I was raised thinking that the trappings of wealth were really just that, trappings.
Now at the age of 44 I think my original dreams have come pretty true. I don't dream of big huge marble bathrooms. I would like a bathtub I could soak in however. I don't dream of a luxury car. We have lived for over 11 years without owning a car. Mass transport and taxis have been enough for us. We consider purchasing a small car as the kids are getting busy at school and our taxi fairs have increased. A nice small Honda would do me just fine.
I don't dream of a 5000 square foot home, we own our 1100 square foot home back in the States and it has been rented to the same tenant for 11 years. While it will be smaller than what we want should we move home, I can't imagine ever living with more than 2200 square feet. Our current space is 1900 square feet and is almost perfect but the lack of storage is a bit off putting.
I certainly don't dream of 40 foot ceilings. Pretty, but how do you dust the brickabrack on the top shelf? If you are sitting in the chair next to it, do you even notice. What about the heating bill of that home? (I do like the view however out those windows... just keeping it real!)
I no longer dream of 2 week vacations. I work from home and travel extensively for work. When the kids are able, they come with us. Budget travel in Asia allows us to fly for cheap and using points I accumulate through work we stay in excellent hotels at pennies on the dollar. When we don't stay at 5 Star Hotels using points, we search the internet and find perfectly acceptable hotels for US$40-50 per night. As a result my children have traveled to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. While they don't get to hang out at the Oregon Coast as much as I did as a child, i think they are doing just fine in the tropics.
I don't dream of showing my wealth by having the biggest or the best. I do have an excellent job. One that pays better than most. It allows Jeff to have the flexibility to find his dream job while we are still paying for our kids to attend a world class private school. We are able to pay for holidays if we want and we are able to pay for health care for those we love. We cut corners where we can to save for the future, we don't have big TVs or lots of gadgets. We don't spend on the latest fashion...in fact I just went shopping for clothes for myself for the first time in over 8 years. Sometimes it is hard to not see beautiful houses like this and say, wow, I wish.... Sometimes it is hard looking at ex-pats (a whole post in itself) and think wow I wish I could have that car, or that dress or that house, or that XYorZ. But, after a moment I think back again about what I really wanted as a child. My definition of success.
In those moments when I start thinking I need to keep up with the Joneses, the Smiths or the Chens... I think back. What is it that I really want.
What do I have:
A happy family. Check
A job that pays for my lifestyle, gives me satisfaction and allows me to travel. Check
A husband that I love and that loves me. Check.
Travel all over the world to learn and see new things. Check.
Live overseas and expose my family to second cultures. Check
Have a group/a circle of amazing friends. Check
A roof over my head. Check
Good food on the table. Check
What I still want:
A backyard with a garden..OK Condo living kind of makes that hard...But I really do like our place.
A sense of financial security. Working on that
Wealth in Spirit- Working on that....
So, have I met my definition of success. Pretty damn close if I do say so myself.
All images from http://shelburnehomes.blogspot.com/