When I was a kid, I wanted to be a farmer. When I realized what hard work farming was, I wanted to be a vet.
Later, I wanted to be a lorry driver, a journalist, an air hostess, a dog breeder, a translator, and a firefighter, among others.
There was one thing I always dreamed of doing, but even at that early age I “knew” that I could not be successful at it, so I didn´t even bother to entertain the thought seriously.
As I moved from school to university and into adulthood, I remained clueless about what to do with my life. I ended up working in humanitarian aid but quickly realized that wasn´t it either.
I became a yoga teacher, massage therapist, and coach, and learned how to market myself online. I even joined a network marketing company.
None of them felt like a good fit, and, to make matters worse, I wasn't even making enough money to live.
I felt like a failure. Our meritocratic society leads us to believe that financial wealth and material success are the only markers of success.
By those definitions, I was a failure.
I had always regarded the capitalist dream with suspicion, but I began to think that maybe there was something wrong with me.
I felt like a worthless loser.
Meritocracy rests on the premise that successful people are so because they deserve it. By the same logic, those who fail do so because they, too, deserve it.
But the truth is, no matter what your economic status, your value as a human is not measured by financial or material success, despite what your conditioning would have you believe.
Furthermore, the definition of success as financial and material wealth is a narrow one that does not align with many people's core values - including my own.
I do not underestimate the importance of money for sustaining a fulfilling life, and of course, I love making money like everyone else.
However, the relentless pursuit of money for money's sake does not interest me.
Alain de Botton encourages us to question the widely-accepted definition of success, and instead develop our definitions of success based on our values.
Online marketing didn't work out for me, but I did notice that my marketing copy struck emotional chords with my audience. I realized my writing had a positive impact on people.
My memory jolted back to the “impossible” dream that I had never dared dream: to write for a living.
What if I could reach and help more people with my words and get paid for it at the same time?
I decided it was finally time to try. If others could do it, why not me? The worst that could happen was that it wouldn't work out, and I would try something else.
I'd done it at so many times at this point that failure didn't scare me anymore.
As for success, my definition shifts with time. Right now success is teaching English online to pay my bills while I build my writing business, working from home and having the time to spend on the things that are important to me.
Six months from now, it will probably look quite different. The important thing is to continually check in with myself and not allow society to tell me what I "should" be doing.
Us millennials are the product of the economic turmoil during which we came of age. Job security is a concept that few of us are familiar with, and many value job satisfaction and work-life balance over a steady, stable job.
This has led many of us to feel lost as we cast about looking for a life path. We are the anxiety generation, believing it's our fault that we can't achieve the success enjoyed by our parents - even though the system is stacked against us.
If this is you, you're not alone, and you're not lost (even though it feels like it sometimes).
In fact, you are in the perfect position to define your life according to your values and your personal definition of success.
Does this resonate with you? Let me know in the comments!