"Success is being at peace with yourself."
I stared at the letters stringed along into a sentence small enough to sit cozy in the fortune cookie that I already ate. There is a reason I love Chinese takeout -- I get to nurture my belly with Mongolian Beef and nurture my soul with unsolicited life wisdom. It doesn't even matter if I will regret opting for the Mongolian beef instead of the steamed chicken later on, because at least the fortune I received was worth the rainy night drive to pick up, rather than have it delivered.
As a 22-year-old in the midst of making some major life choices about my career, my passions and my values in a world that has a funny way of making you question yourself, guidance is always nice. In fact, there is a reason why I am one of those individuals who seeks out the "mind-body-soul" books with the semi-cliché covers. I am hoping that one of these books will give me the answer to how I can live a life of maximized fulfillment and minimal pain.
At least, this is what I thought I am looking for.
The truth is that the more I read, the more I realize that many of the guiding principles written in these books are not really teaching you what is going to make you fulfilled. Your happiness is not always one size fits all.
Of course, there have been books that have impacted the way I view the world. My favorite yet is "The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself," by Michael A. Singer. I recommend this book with a fair warning to just about anyone who has approached me for some advice: don't mind the galloping horse on the beach cover; just dig into this masterpiece.
But even then, what these books actually do is make you realize that much of the wisdom written in those pages are principles we inwardly already know. The problem is we are so distracted by escaping ourselves that we rarely get to know ourselves.
Anxiety, decision-making and fear are not themes specific of my generation, but considering the rate of change we face, we are constantly trying to find some stability and some sense of security in our emotional and professional lives. This can become crippling if we cannot even trust ourselves.
So, what does one do? Do we struggle to find a sense of the known and feel like we must protect it? Or, do we fully embrace the mystery that is waiting to unfold before us?
We face these challenges everyday. We want to hold onto our loved ones and our relationships tightly with both hands. We attach ourselves to ideas and things that we believe define who we are. Then, when we are confronted with any loss or failure, our self-image is completely withered and our self-esteem is bruised.
I used to think that to live a fulfilled life meant to live a simply secure life. This was my definition of success. But, now I have realized that the key is fluidity, not security. Our peace of mind doesn't lie in absolute structure, but in relative flexibility. And it is not so much about defending ourselves as it is about unleashing our true selves without fear of vulnerability.
Now before we throw caution to the wind, it important to remember that financial security, safety, and healthy relationships are essential to our wellbeing. But, none of these are guaranteed. We experience highs and lows, and somewhere in between the chaotic moments of life, we must confront our relationship with ourselves.
We can't prevent obstacles or shortcomings, but we can either savor the pain and become lost in its cycle of self-destruction or we can accept our emotions and allow them to strengthen us. Beauty and art, after all, do not always rise from pure bliss, but from souls that have endured the depths of their emotions and experienced what it means to be a human.
While my fortune cookie can't foretell my future, it does remind me that in the process of paving our lives, we will encounter both moments of fulfillment and disappointment. No book can predict our greatest moments of joy or prevent us from experiencing the most stifling moments of sadness. But, how we overcome any difficult choices or setbacks is a reflection of our relationship with ourselves.
"Success is being at peace with yourself."
Let those words just marinate for a minute in your mind.