Boiling Point: the search for success
Success is immeasurable. Try as we might, we cannot put a label on what makes each of us feel proud.
For today’s teenagers, there is a constant pressure to make a decision between the messages coming from the heart versus those from the wallet -- we are led from a young age to believe that our future depends on the socioeconomic status we attain throughout our lives. Cartoon/William Kissane.
But this ambiguity unfortunately leads to confusion, frustration and prejudice. As teenagers, we struggle to discover what success means to us, instead of what it means to society. And when we see those around us who achieve “success” by dishonest means, do we let that define the future we choose?
A handful of Clarke Central High School students anonymously shared with me their own definitions of success. Answers generally included something along the lines of personal fulfillment and supporting a family.
But when we graduate from CCHS and enter the real world, we will face the fact that success instead stems from money and power. It seems as if you’d better just find happiness along the way if you’re still naïve enough to care.
“It’s harder to be successful if you’re worrying about money, especially if money equals happiness… then what else do you have,” one student asked.
Although we live with and live by the definition of success being monetary, none of us want to say it out loud. We are more inclined to profess worthy desires and humble goals. We blush when we’re asked to define success; we can’t bear to think that we don’t always hold ourselves to honest standards.
But the evidence that society’s material inclinations are seeping in to our young minds is everywhere.
Maybe our “successful” next-door neighbor makes money doing something illegal. Maybe he is the successful one in our eyes, because his family is well-fed and his car has a new sound system.
So he becomes our role model, rather than our other neighbor who lives honestly but whose family lives pay check to pay check.
It’s no wonder why young men walk around with money on their minds, in their hands and in their lyrics, rather than the math required to balance a bank account.
I can’t think of a time when I’ve heard anything from one of the “successful” businessmen in our country besides essentially bickering about maximizing profits. We see success on the TV in the form of rich men, but we don’t know the story of how they got there. Is he happy?
It all comes down to the same thing — we may be young, but we’ve already figured out it’s all just a money game, a power game.
As we confront the choices which will essentially guide the rest of our lives, I wish I could say the majority of adults were giving us more than double-standards and hypocrisy.
I am beyond tired of adults complaining that my generation is lazy, ungrateful, unskilled and bound for disaster. They ask for the least amount of effort from and have the lowest-possible expectations for a student who intimidates them with his creativity but just needs a little help with reading.
Yet 10 years ago, when we were in elementary school, these same people refused to challenge us when the opportunity existed. They sent six-year-olds the message that they weren’t “gifted.” What we are now capable of doesn’t come close to what we could have been capable of if we had been encouraged and pushed from the beginning.
When students are told so early in their lives that they either are or are not headed in the right direction, it stands to reason that they will make the connection between socioeconomic status and future success.
So we ask ourselves the question: which dreams do we chase?
We have to choose.
We all have our own dreams, those outlandish and unrealistic dreams about which we were passionate and wanted to achieve, but never got around to working towards in between answering to everyone else.
But the choice we are expected to make is to follow the dreams we are expected to have, those which are limiting and segregating, and those which we have been prepared for and funneled towards since we were too young to know the difference.