In the fall of 1980, I sat in Sunny Sundberg's office in Health Services Counseling Centre at the University of Waterloo - a confused 19 year old wondering what I was doing in university, and what life was all about anyways. As we talked she said something I have never forgotten: “Laurel, you may not know right now exactly what you want to do with your life, but you do know you want to be a successful professional of some kind.”
Over the last 38 years, I have often remembered those words and wondered to myself “Am I a successful professional? What does that really mean – and have I arrived yet?!” At this stage in my life I would like to offer a word of encouragement to my fellow alumni who are asking the same questions, and who may read the alumni updates and feel “less than” our fellow classmates who chose more traditional paths.
Right now I'm working as a full-time waiter at Sassafraz restaurant in Yorkville, Toronto. I would define myself as a successful professional, just not in a typical job. Maybe most people wouldn't view my humble job as the definition of success, but to me it is. You see, I define success as the ability to genuinely connect with people every day and leave them better than I found them. Through a series of heartfelt interactions: smiling at my customers, meeting their eyes, sincerely welcoming them and helping create a wonderful dining experience; my job becomes very meaningful and satisfying. Just being kind and loving to people can make such a huge impact on them – what a gift to be able to do this for a living! People are hungry for authentic connection, and as I meet that need through the gift of genuine hospitality, I fill my cup too!
I've discovered success isn't a one-size-fits-all destination or definition. I believe each of us has the opportunity and responsibility to uniquely define what success means to us. Although I'm not using my Political Science degree every day to pay the bills, I'm grateful for the path that led me to Waterloo, and beyond. As we navigate the process of figuring out what true success means know that I am cheering you on, and hoping you find great meaning and satisfaction in whatever definition you choose.
I'd love to know what success means to you ... leave me your thoughts in the comments!
P.S. I've decided to write a book! You can find images of my imperfect but happy life and follow my writing progress on Instagram.