Five years ago today, I moved to Boulder, Colorado from Boston, Massachusetts. I sold my house in the ‘burbs, propped Tigger in his new car seat (one that let him see out the window) and pointed my car west, towards my dream. Though I knew where I would be living and had plans to start my own business, there was an enormous amount of uncertainty in my new life direction and that suited me just fine. I was rejuvenated, invigorated, enlivened, excited. Life was full of possibility.
I joined a writer’s group and a gym, I biked and hiked, I made new friends, I found my way in a new city. My energy was high and my attitude positive. I built a network for my new business and eventually began a second business. I found my way. I was on my way to success professionally and personally.
So much good came out of that move–my life began to feel like my own for the first time in close to 20 years, and I stepped outside my comfort zone and I believed in magic. I made mistakes. I fell down. I doubted myself. I celebrated simple moments like my first paying client and my first ride on my road bike.
I have danced to many different tunes over the past five years, and I suppose that is why today I find myself contemplating the meaning of success and the meaning of failure. They go hand in hand like happiness and sadness, love and hate, light and dark. The very opposite nature of one illuminates the light of the other. I’m reflecting on my move and how it has impacted my life and all the twists and turns my life has taken and how the linear path has not been what unfolded. I’m looking at where I have succeeded and where I have failed and then, my brain being what it is, exploring what my definition of each is.
My artist’s soul is drawn to contrasts in nature. The morning or late afternoon sun moves me in a way words cannot, but the mid-day sun, not so much. There is a brilliance to the light when shadows remain, when colors strike hard, the reds painfully beautiful, the greens impossible, the blues sharp and clear. I live for the contrast, the liveliness of the light at such times. The contrasts in our living bewilder me at times, and there are moments when I flutter between the two extremes. I am curious about those in-between spaces like the light on a sunny day at noon, the ones where the balance could tip in either direction and how sometimes the wrong direction ends up being the right direction and how sometimes we discover years later that our mistakes and failures were actually our greatest successes. NOT because of their event, but because of how we moved through them.
I don’t have all the answers.
I do know that success is not a destination anymore than failure is. There is no endpoint, it is a continuum. I know that success and failure can only be defined by our own hearts and that if our definition of each is different from societal norms, we will have to hold tight to our self trust because the winds of the world will constantly want to blow us in a direction that does not suit us.
I’m thinking too that success and failure walk hand in hand just like joy and grief. One cannot exist without the other.
My move was a grand life adventure, one that I continue to reap the benefits of, especially in the meeting of my future husband and my small circle of good and trusted friends. The spokes of my life wheel have magnified magnificently because of this move.
But what do I make of all the starts and stops, what of the distance from my children, what do I make of the career path I’ve chosen, one that challenges me every day straight down to my core? What of the missteps I’ve taken along the way? Is there a ratio one should use to to determine if my life to this day has been a success or a failure? How does one measure such a thing?
I am wondering today, on the five-year anniversary of my move, if the truth is that success and failure are not like water and oil, unable to mix, remaining separate, but instead are a perfectly blended combination of ingredients like a luscious cake, unable to be teased out individually once the blender begins to blend.
I still don’t have all the answers.