The 17-year-old lesson

The idea of success has resonated with me throughout my entire life. Whether it was my mom, dad, or brother, everyone in my family pushed me to be the best and most successful out of all of us. The only problem was that it took 17 years for me to finally realize that success is so much more than a single word.


I was never the kid who was able to just accept things; I always needed to ask why? why? why? and it didn’t stop there. Being thrown around in extra math classes was one of the toughest things I went through as a little kid. Not because I hated math or anything but just because I had no clue what was going on. I was never able to say “ok,” understand it, and move on; I had to know all of the little intricacies to solving those horrible systems of equations through every possible method. It was because of my incapability to just acknowledge certain facts that I always had to work harder than most to reach that level of success that I thought was acceptable in my family. And it didn’t stop there.


Growing up with a brother like mine, it was very difficult to stand out: he was great at everything. Whether it was math, tennis, reading speed, or even my dreaded ACT score, I always felt like I had to work harder and harder to even come close. That concept of things just coming easy for me was a very foreign idea which I didn’t just see at home either. Through my extra math classes as a kid, I always thought I would be the “cream of the cream,” as my dad always put it, without ever having to worry. Well… I was wrong. There were no breaks in the classroom either. I was raised with the foundations of never giving up, never taking no for an answer, and always fighting to get to the top. I would love to say I continued these life lessons every day since then, but unfortunately, I cannot.


Fast forward 8 or so years later and it was the beginning of the summer before my senior year of high school. Here I was still finally finishing the ACT, no summer homework, and getting ready for my final tennis season; life was good. It was also the time where I began to see myself in a whole new perspective. All my life I credited myself with being successful in all kinds of areas. Whether it was extracurriculars or my core classes. I soon began to consider what success really was. I was raised thinking success was a straight path comprised of high GPAs, straight A’s, and the rest of the whole nine yards. But that wasn’t really the case because, in reality, success is comprised of so much more than a straight line: it’s determination, ambition, intuitiveness, and so much more. Looking back I saw a lack in a lot of those areas. It was from that moment on I began to work for what my own success would look like. 


This new definition of success is what I credit my new lifestyle towards. By changing the aspects of life that were there just because and not because I put it there, I was able to create a new sense of self-validation. The idea of self-validation is absent amongst the majority of the world we see nowadays. Whether it’s kids mindlessly taking classes just because they are told to or even presidential candidates running for office and becoming the thousandth character on tv saying the exact same things as the person next to them, people are losing focus on what their own idea of success truly means. In the end, success is really anything your willpower desires and works to achieve.


All my life I have worked and worked not knowing what I want to be. It took 17 years for me to finalize this and gain a clear picture on that idea in my own future. Success is not a dream that people are programmed to search for their entire lives. Success is built on goals. Once you accomplish one, we move onto the next. In some way or another, this was the lesson I had been taught by my family all those years ago, it just took me some time to realize it. That moment of self-reflection allowed me to see the experiences I had gone through and how they built on each other to help build my own path. After so many years, I finally learned the lesson that success is so much more than a simple score or position we encounter along the way. Success shall and will always be defined by the pursuit of those who are ever-growing, ever-changing, and constantly fighting to achieve their next goal.