Learning the definition of success

You don't always have to be the best

Throughout my entire childhood, I was convinced I was going to be famous. I spent an inordinate amount of time alone in my bedroom practicing my opera scales. I would call our voicemail and refused to let my parents pick up the phone, so I could record myself singing and listen back to it.

I don’t want to brag, but I had a flourishing acting career that began with the lead role of the Bunny in my kindergarten play and culminated with the role of a crow in the Wizard of Oz during middle school. I also got asked out over AIM by the boy playing the Mayor of Munchkin City — I was a regular local celebrity.

On my 13th birthday, I actually sat my parents down and seriously told them time was ticking and if I was ever going to make it big in Hollywood, it was about time to get me an agent. Unfortunately, they dismissed my request and suggested I sign up for drama next year instead. I still blame them for dashing my dreams of stardom.

After this stage, I was convinced I was going to be a famous fashion designer — I spent hours doodling sketches of platform high heels and sequined tank tops underneath my desk, all the kinds of clothing my mom would never let me buy. Most of my pieces were inspired by Mary Kate & Ashley’s wardrobes in their series of straight-to-VHS movies — which I worshipped. Their characters always had cool names like “Riley” or “Chloe” and got their first kisses from cute boys with highlighted hair.

Then came my alternative stage. The world was a dark, rough place for a seventh grader — I had a lot of emotions and I was more than ready to share them.

I filled journal after journal with poetry about my love for the middle school soccer captain, in which I rhymed phrases like “despairing heart” with “your face is like art.” I wore a lot of black, blasted Nirvana even though I didn’t understand what Kurt Cobain was singing about and told my mom I wanted to direct independent arthouse films. I had a bit of hard time throughout middle school.

Then there was high school, when I was convinced I was going to ditch my small, Southern hometown and become a fashionable journalist at some posh magazine like Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar. I imagined myself hobnobbing with skinny models and eccentric artists, stopping mid-conversation at a chic party to pose over one shoulder for a page six spread I would later read in my New York City loft.

Needless to say, my position as Editor-in-Chief of our high school newspaper didn’t exactly propel me forward to being the next Anna Wintour — correcting the eighth misspelled word in a review of your town’s new Buffalo Wild Wings does not ignite the creative drive.

And then I came to the University. If there is ever a place to make you question whether you are actually talented in any form or might amount to any sort of success in your life, this may be it. I immediately felt like everyone else was better at everything else than I was.

Originally this intimidated and even depressed me — how could I ever keep up with these people? The same girl who at the age of eight had planned to win an Oscar and then marry Leonardo DiCaprio now couldn’t even fathom getting a decent grade on her Art History midterm.

But, in my four years here, I have come to realize you don’t have to necessarily be the best at something to be successful. There is definitely a mindset here that you constantly have to be at the top of your game and, while it has been amazing and inspiring to be surrounded by so many people who are the best at what they do, I don’t think it’s necessary for self fulfillment. Just because you aren’t getting a 4.0 or don’t have a job with an impressive signing bonus doesn’t mean that you aren’t successful.

I think we need to be reminded of this from time to time. But I still wouldn’t mind marrying Leonardo DiCaprio…

{Mimi’s column runs biweekly Wednesdays. She can be reached at m.montgomery@cavalierdaily.com.

Published March 4, 2014 in Life

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