A successful life is defined by the individual


Photo by Madeline Mcinnis
Photo by Madeline Mcinnis

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”

This quote from Oscar Wilde and others like it have been plastered on my social media for the past few weeks.

I’m a fairly big fan of Wilde, but in the context this quote is being used, the message is that not everyone lives their life to the fullest and accomplishes things in their short time on earth.

It’s suggesting that, to live, people have to have experiences and successes that define a person both within themselves and through society in general.

How do we even define “living”? Is it being widely regarded as the best in your field? Travelling the world? Being recognized for your originality and creativity?

Certainly, a lot of people don’t get these distinguished regards. Equally certain, not everyone even wants these things.

We all have the power to decide what we want from our lives. My success will differ from yours. My goals will differ from yours. My “living” is different from yours.

Everyone dies, yes. However, everyone also lives.

Some people are destined to be recognized for their successes. Maybe they’ll become the head of a law firm or a movie star. Others are destined to live a quiet life, devoted to family and friends.

Why should one of these be considered “living,” while the other isn’t? Our society has taught us that, to have success, we have to be the very best and be recognized for it. Failure is not seen as an option.

There’s nothing wrong with each individual goal, no matter how mundane it may seem.

I have a good friend who wants nothing more than to be a mother when she graduates. I would defend to the death that this is “living.” She may never see herself on the silver screen. She may never visit Thailand.

People may never know her name. If she’s happy and achieved her own goals, that’s living in the best sense of the word, regardless of what other people think “living” to be. The type of thinking this quote is being used in the way it is perpetuates could lead to reckless, damaging behaviour. It buys into the “FOMO” epidemic that plagues university students.

It’s saying that if you’re not doing anything special or exciting, you’re not living and you’re going to die without achievements.

Heavy, right? Also untrue. If I’ve learned anything from my nineteen-and-a-half years on this earth, it’s that comparing yourself to others will never make you happy.

Even if other people are doing the things you wish you were doing, it doesn’t mean you’re not living. We all have little victories every day.

Though studying during reading week seems to pale in comparison to travelling to Europe, that doesn’t mean you’re not living. You’re living just the same as everyone else, regardless of experiences.

When it does come time to die, no one is going to remember if you backpacked across the Andes in Fall 2016. They’re going to remember if you felt happy and fulfilled while doing it. It’s the same for studying.

Loving what you do? That’s real living. You define your own happiness. You get to say what “living” is, not some dumb Facebook post.

Live for yourself and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not properly living.

Unapologetically strive for your goals, no matter how mundane they may seem to other people. That’s living life to the absolute fullest.

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