“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” ~Maya Angelou

Color within the lines. Math, physics and chemistry—there’s absolutely no point in taking drama. A main meal of straight A’s and a side order of volunteer work. A four-year degree with a “safe” major from a reputable college. Then comes the corner cubicle career at a listed company. What about the four-bedroom house and the annual holidays abroad? We can’t possibly forget about those things.

                          

All through life, from infancy to adulthood, we are told what it means to be successful. We are given a textbook definition, based purely on societal constructs that have existed for far too long without critical questioning, and then expected to attain this success without any consideration given to individualism—a core characteristic of what it means to be human.

Not so long ago, I would have happily been the poster child for a successful young adult who was on a clear trajectory toward even more success.

I colored only in my coloring book in a demure manner, using colors that were realistic and often leaving some of the more obscure colors completely untouched, while my younger brother scribbled unhinged and feverishly on just about every reachable surface with absolutely all the colors in his crayon box.

When I got to high school, I swapped writing and performing in plays for physics and chemistry because I needed something more credible for my college applications. I was rewarded for this choice by being accepted into one of the most revered schools in the country, while some of my peers failed to even graduate from high school.

And so, I continued with this mindset into university where I spent countless all-nighters studying in lieu of socializing and well, to be quite honest, actually living my life.

I distinctly remember one night in particular when an old love interest called me up to say that he’d like nothing more than to pick me up and take me out just like he’d done dozens of times before.

I recall heartily laughing at his admission mostly because of that fact that he’d recently moved across the country. I also vividly recall his excitement as he explained that he was on a surprise trip back in the city. The excitement, however, was short-lived as I insisted on staying indoors to study for a test and in doing so rejected what was one of the most grand and sincerest gestures that has ever been extended to me.

Once again, my one-track minded behavior was rewarded, and I graduated summa cum laude.

I entered the workforce with the same vigor and intention to excel that I’d now been wholly ingrained with. I worked long hours, traveled extensively, and missed out on everything from birthdays to bachelorettes. The most horrifying part was that I barely felt a shred of remorse because—you guessed it—my absenteeism was rewarded with more perks and more promotions.

Everything was going swimmingly. According to my bank account, my LinkedIn profile, and the suburb I lived in, I was successful. And just think, there was even more yet to come.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been thrown a curveball, but it’s something completely and utterly unexpected. One day you’re casually walking down the street, daydreaming about the perfect outfit for tomorrow’s not at all planned “run-in” with the office building cutie, when a tiny unknown object flies straight into your eye leaving you with the distinct feeling that you’re going to be left permanently blind.

If you think that this sounds a little too detailed in description to be just a vague and random example, you’re right. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to me one bright and sunny spring day on my way back to the office from a quick lunch.

What I remember most was not so much the excruciating pain but the fear of what was going to happen to my eye as an endless stream of tears cascaded down my face. I walked briskly into the bathroom and tried my best to wash out any debris that may have been the source of my painful discomfort and profound anxiety.