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 from high school, to college, and then cap it off with a 9-to-5 job, your friends and family have clear indications when they're supposed to celebrate your achievements. They know when to buy you a gift (because you got engaged) or when to take you out to dinner (because you received a promotion). It's safe to assume that they know because they've walked the same path as you and they understand when it's time to bust out the champagne. 

I think of things like promotions or engagements as "indicators of success" that act as guideposts to those around you. They signal to your family that things are going good and you deserve to be congratulated. And in many ways, they alert you to the fact that you're making good choices and that you're firmly planted on the road to success. 

But what if you're not taking the traditional path and you've opted to take 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 tantrum about not feeling appreciated, but that's not what this is about. It's about how as more of us make unconventional life choices, its become difficult to know when to celebrate.  

Maybe I feel this way because I've always had a high premium on celebrating things, like my birthday, for instance. Ask my parents and they'll tell you that I've wanted my birthday to feel special. Maybe that sort of behavior doesn't resonate with you, so this post won't either. Maybe you don't need to feel celebrated. It's not like I want constant affirmation, but sometimes I do want to celebrate the things happening in my life, even if they're not those big moments.

It's easy for me to celebrate people when it's their wedding day, but I can't afford to wait for those events.  For many of my friends, their life doesn't necessarily lend itself to those life-altering moments and if I wait to celebrate people until they get that big promotion, I could potentially be waiting a long, long time. My advice? Pat them on the before the promotion. Celebrate them long before the wedding or engagement or new career. 

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 of yourself until you've reached those certain external achievements. If you feel successful in your own eyes, you have everyone reason to feel proud. And it's worth celebrating.