Discover what happens when you stop measuring success by what you do
By Megan Pinckney
It started back in kindergarten, if not before. Teachers would pass around flashcards illustrated with different professions in action: doctors, lawyers, chemists, even athletes, then after a little discussion we’d all be asked, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?” As I grew older, the way the question was asked changed to “What are you studying in college?” or “What do you do for a living?” but they all meant the same thing – which job did you choose to define you?
Back in middle school I had the perfect answer to that question: write for a fashion magazine in New York City. It was specific enough that you knew exactly what my goal was, but vague enough for me to fill in the blanks as I moved towards it. In fact, I was so committed to this dream career that it was the answer to that question through the day I graduated from college. I spent more than a decade working towards that one goal.
But life took me down a completely different path, as it often does.
Fast forward to 2019. I had reached the 10-years-post-high-school mile marker and I couldn’t help but compare where I actually was to where I thought I would be. I often found myself questioning what I had accomplished. Sure, I had checked many things off my bucket list, traveled all around the world, connected with people across many different industries and made an impact on communities all around me. But I wasn’t a fashion writer and I couldn’t help but feel like I had failed. Why? Because it had been drilled in me since I was a child that to be successful meant having a defined career that fit into a standardized box. And that’s when it hit me!
Maybe our general notion of success is wrong.
Instead of defining success by who’s at the top of a company, who works the most often, or even by which career someone’s chosen, what if we defined it by who’s the happiest? Or by who has made the biggest impact on the lives around them? Sure, a certain degree of nominal success is important to survive, but the world doesn’t need more people working to become billionaires. The world needs more content people who feel at peace and optimistic, not burnt out or overworked. How do we do that? By finding our passions, those things that speak to our souls, and becoming involved enough to define ourselves by them instead. We all have to make a living, but we have to remember that our job or title doesn’t have to define who we are.
I realized a while ago how passionate I am about making the arts accessible to everyone. Since then, I have found organizations that help me do just that. And though those activities aren’t how I make a living, whenever I’m asked what I do for a living I say “I’m really active in bringing the arts to every community.” It won’t give you a good idea of how much I make, but I think it tells you a lot more about me than a job title ever could!
Megan Pinckney is a beauty queen turned model turned digital content creator. She serves as an ambassador for the arts in South Carolina. Follow her journey on Instagram @shadesofpinck.
Photo: Southern Stitched