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The Pressure of Success

The Pressure of Success

You know what the world needs? People who are willing to become absolutely nothing. Now, I’m not specifically referencing that we need more middle-aged fast-food joint employees or more high school dropouts aspiring to own a garbage dump someday. What I mean is, why aren’t more people willing to be unsuccessful? Why do we cave in to the pressure of success?

Here I am, four months after graduation looking for my first “real” job, and honestly, I don’t know if I really want to go the conventional route. I don’t know if I want to do what everyone expects me to do. Let me give you some background.

I am the kid that everyone has always expected big things from—or at least that’s what I thought people expected. In my senior year of high school I got a 29 on my ACT and my history teacher looked at me and said, “Oh, I would have thought you could do better.” In fact, the principal of my school encouraged me to take it again because he thought I could get something in the 30s.

And for the longest time, I’ve made that expectation my own. When I graduated this past spring with a magna cum laude, a tiny voice inside of me whispered, If only you would have worked hard enough, you could have done better.

This has been my mantra for as long as I can remember. But, I finally decided that I’m sick of it. I don’t really want to be successful in the conventional sense. I don’t even think God is calling me to make climbing the corporate ladder my life goal. As I’ve honestly thought about what I could do if I could do absolutely anything with my life, it has far less to do with success the way my history teacher defined it. I would rather devote more time to serving people through volunteering and writing about things that really means something in life. But, despite my desire to live a no-frills life of service and meaning, a little nagging voice inside of me is begging me to be reasonable. After all, I have a daunting school debt to pay off and a car that’s pushing 200,000 miles. Shouldn’t I be concerned with salary and benefits and using my wonderful Bachelor of Arts degree?

The thing is: I know what I’m capable of. Being editor-in-chief of my college newspaper helped me to gain experience and confidence in my capabilities. I’ve had opportunities to take the expected newspaper reporter job that will serve as a nice springboard to bigger and broader audiences. But for some reason, I’ve held back from pursuing or accepting the normal road to journalism success. Instead, I live in this constant tension—wondering if I am foolish for not going for the newspaper job and at the same time being thankful that I have the strength the refuse to accept less than God’s best for me—if even it’s less than glorious.

If I did choose the “road to success,” I think I would always have an irksome feeling that God demanded more—not more in the way of paychecks or positions, but more in the way of complete and utter submission, more in the way of truly living with His kingdom in mind, more in the way of reliance on Him.

Though there is that mental voice telling me to keep on living my life the way I’ve always lived—to meet the expectations of myself and others, deeper inside me still, is a quiet, stronger voice beckoning me to direct my drive and ambition in a different type of life.

“Let me give you the strength to be all I demand of you,” said the Voice. “Quit believing in other people’s dreams for your life. Let go of all you think you can do, and let me show you what I think you can do.”

And the more I’ve contemplated the two paths, the more I’m convinced that being successful by the way of the world is far too easy. I don’t think God only wants hotshot journalists or big-time music artists or powerful business executives “on his side.” God wants people who are willing to be daring enough to be all that He asks of them no matter where they live or what they’re getting paid to do. Which leads me to a conclusion: I want to walk the harder path. I want a life of adventure led by the best safari guide there ever could be. I want to be guided along the backcountry roads instead of taking the freeway. Though, I think I will always live in the tension, I choose not to care if I’m successful anymore.

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