Today is my birthday, and staying with tradition, I found a quiet place to reflect on the past year and the past thirty-five.
Of the numerous trails and turnouts I could have chosen around Mt. Madonna, Fate would have me stumble upon the one leading to the Miller House Ruins. Approaching the ruins, I saw a placard recounting a brief history of Henry Miller. I hesitated to read it as I felt learning about something left in ruins would diminish the outcome of my time on the mountain. However, what I learned from the placard was no less than inspiring. In the 1800’s, Mr. Miller, arrived in California with $6 in his pocket, eventually working to such success, he became one of the largest land owners in the United States. The “ruins” are what is left of the vacation home estate he built for his family and friends. That rags-to-riches story reminded me of how I used to be very confused about what success is.
For years, I believed that life happens to a person. That for the most part what would happen to me was out of my control. Related to that, I thought to be successful, I had to already be successful. This was evinced in the numerous times I avoided taking part in sports or showcasing any talent, because I didn’t believe I measured up to others who already had success in those areas. And of course I could never measure up since I already assumed since I didn’t have it, I never would. It was a self-condemning cycle. Deep down, I hoped I’d have the success other people did, but I never inserted myself in the process of getting it.
Today, I’m not afraid to work towards that same level of success. Through many seasons of personal growth, I’ve learned, for a large part, I do have control over how successful my life is and where it is headed. I’ve started to exert that control by setting a course, writing success into the story with goals about what I want my life to look like. I aim at success, then aim again, farther and higher as each goal is met.
Years have passed since I started doing that and I’m miles ahead of where I began. As if on a mountain trail, each completed goal carries me one step closer to the summit, and each new goal endeavored lifts the peak one step higher. This paradox, reflecting the infinite nature of existence, means I’m no closer to the summit than when I started. But that next step, the success that I haven’t yet had, isn’t a barrier to me anymore. For though the distance between me and the summit will always remain unchanged, the distance from where I started and where I end, will have been a mountain in the making.