celebration on the road less traveled

One of the most difficult things about having an unorthodox career path is that you're never sure when you're supposed to celebrate your accomplishments. Here's what I mean...

If you go the normal route, say, community college, then a university, and cap it off with a 9 to 5 job, your friends and family have clear indications when they're supposed to commemorate your achievements.

Those "indicators of success" are almost like guideposts to you and those around you. They alert you to the fact that you're going in the right direction and (this may just be me) it's okay to buy higher-priced wine from Trader Joe's. And they're also signals to your friends and family, tipping them off to the fact that now is a good time to pat you on the back.

Examples of these indicators can vary greatly depending on your age, but often they'll be things like getting a raise, receiving a diploma, or being awarded the corner office. It's hundreds of little things that as a whole, symbolize you're on the road to success. Bravo!

But what if you're not taking the traditional path and you've opted instead to walk the road "less traveled by?" In my experience, things get murky once you take that road. And not just for others, but for yourself, too. 

This post could easily be misread as a millennial's digital tantrum about not feeling appreciated, but that's not what this is about. This is about how as people choose more unconventional means of living, those indicators become harder and harder to see. As more people live less traditional lives, it's becoming more difficult to know when to celebrate them.  

Perhaps I feel this way because I've always had a high premium on celebrating things. Ask my parents about my adolescence and they'll tell you I always wanted my birthday to feel special and set apart. Maybe that sort of behavior doesn't resonate with you, so this post won't either. And perhaps my love language lends itself to celebrations and affirmation, but yours doesn't and this post just sounds very, very dramatic. That's fine.

I don't have a conclusion or even a solution to offer to anyone. All I know is that while people's achievements are beginning to look different from years past, celebration is needed now more than ever.  

It's easy for me to celebrate people when it's their wedding day, birthday, or when they've received a promotion, but I don't think I can afford to wait for those events anymore. Because for many people, their life's trajectory no longer lends itself to those big, life-altering moments. Things are changing, With the way things are going, if we wait to celebrate people until they get that big promotion, we'll be waiting a long, long time. My advice? Pat them on the before the promotion and also in spite of it. Maybe this post is really just about celebrating people because of our common humanity? I'm not entirely sure. 

As Anna Quindlen put it "If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all." So when it comes to your own life, don't wait to feel proud until you've reached certain external achievements. If you feel successful in your own eyes, you have everyone reason to feel proud. And it's worth celebrating.