We are pleased to debut a short story written by a brand new member Amna AlHashemi where she writes a story in a male point of view titled Journey to success for our Journey theme
What is success?
Is it physical? Can you feel it? Touch it?
Or is it invisible?
Is it constant?
How long does it last?
Can we control it?
Do we choose it, or does it choose us?
Can someone become successful, or are they born successful?
I stopped writing and leaned back into my chair. I felt tired as usual, and a headache seemed to be poking it’s way into my head already. I looked at my grade book, and, for what seemed like the hundredth time, evaluated my scores once more.
There was an A-, a B- another A-, a B+, and a B. It sounded good, and guaranteed a passing grade.
But it wasn’t enough.
That much was never enough, not for the world I lived in. There, everyone had to strive towards being number one, towards taking the first place, towards getting straight A’s. And towards success.
But what is success?
I sighed and decided to pack up for the day. I stayed in the dorm long enough, and wanted go back home for the weekend.
When I reached back home, I greeted my parents and momentarily forgot about my failure to “become a better achiever” for this semester. My parents, like the rest of the people in this world I lived in, were going to be disappointed as well. I was going to try my best not to mention my grades, and if they asked…well I don’t want to think about that just yet.
Fortunately for me, my Grandfather was visiting us that day. Grandfather was my most favorite person in the world. He always made me feel happy and good about myself.
Around sunset, we sat outside on the porch and drank our usual tea. Of course, Grandfather completely ignored my comments about him watching his blood sugar level and waved away my protests as he poured a couple of sugar blocks into his tea. I laughed and silently prayed for God to keep him safe and healthy.
After a brief moment of silence, my Grandfather surprised me by asking me what was wrong.
“Nothing’s wrong, Grandpa.” My weak attempt at sounding cheerful didn’t fool him though, and he waited for me to start talking.
He was always able to see right through me.
“Well, the thing is…I’m not sure how to say this.” I looked down at my cup of tea, feeling embarrassed about this whole situation. Grandfather waited patiently for me to go on, and he had his eyes completely focused on me.
“To be honest Grandpa, I feel like…a failure.” I mumbled in a low voice, and I almost wondered if he was able to hear me at all.
“A failure at what exactly, son?” He leaned forward, and my heart rate accelerated as I felt the stress creep up on me again.
“At everything. I can’t get any higher grades, the stress from keeping up with my classmates is becoming impossible to bear with, and I lost all of my confidence to do better. I can’t succeed.” The words poured out of my mouth, and my tone picked up volume. I felt the stress inch closer towards my heart and grab a hold of it as it started beating faster and faster. I closed my eyes and tried to relax.
“Remind me what you’re studying again, my boy.” My Grandfather asked me in a quite voice.
“I’m taking Dentistry.” I exhaled softly. I opened my eyes and glimpsed my Grandfather’s goofy smile.
“Ah, that’s right. Following in your old man’s footsteps.” He tapped his fingers against his forehead and mumbled something about old age or memory decline.
That reminded me of something I’ve been wondering about. “Grandpa, what did you study?”
“I didn’t, son. Back in my days, we all had to go out and work to earn our keep as soon as we could. I chose to work in my father’s field of work, much the same as you did.” He laughed softly again, and sipped from his tea. “As fishermen, our work posed a great risk on our lives. But the satisfaction of bringing back the many treasures we found from what the sea offered made it all worth the risk.” He nodded his head at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back at his proud attitude.
“And did you…” I changed my mind, and decided not to ask him. I had spoken in a low voice, and didn’t expect him to hear me anyway.
“What is it, son?” It turned out he did hear me, and I swallowed back the hesitation I had.
“I was just wondering, if you thought you had a successful career?” Somehow, my question sounded like it doubted he had.
“Hmm…success, you say?” He finished what was left of his tea, and leaned forward towards me again. “What do you mean by success, exactly?”
That’s exactly what I want to know, I thought to myself. I noticed he was still waiting for an answer, so I shrugged and waited for him to elaborate.
“Well, I think success is measured by how happy or satisfied you feel, isn’t it? For me, what made me happy was keeping my family safe and well fed, and waking up every morning looking forward to what God had in plan for me for the day. I enjoyed my work, and I raised my sons and daughters to become good people, and happy parents later on.” He smiled softly at me, and I knew he was looking at the past that came before me. The past that lead to my existence. “So yes, son, I do believe I was successful.”
I was still taking in the meanings behind his words when my Grandfather asked me something. I didn’t hear him the first time, so I asked him to ask me again.
“I said, are you happy where you are right now?”
Am I happy? In the world I live in?
Everyday I wake up with a cloud of dread weighing down heavily on me. I hardly get any sleep, I don’t have any close friends in my college, I’m always lost in my classes, and embarrisingly plenty of times I almost fainted due to stress and lack of proper nutrition. I don’t know what I’m doing there, or what to expect from my future.
Happy? No. I was miserable.
“I thought so.” I looked up to find my Grandfather nodding at me knowingly, as if he’d just read my thoughts. “Then why are you still there, son?”
I looked away, ashamed of my failure. I thought about my teachers from school, my relatives, and of course my parents. “I don’t have a choice, Grandpa. I can’t disappoint my parents. Especially not my dad.”
“Son,” Grandpa patted my knee and added, “You always have a choice.”
I turned back and looked into his face, hoping against hope for a way out of this that doesn’t lead to disappointment.
“Tell me something. If you could do anything, right now, knowing that nothing and nobody can judge you for it…what would you do?” Even in the darkened light around us, I could see the glint in his eyes as he asked me that. He was genuinely curious about my opinion.
I thought about it a little, and looked back at him to make sure it really was okay for me to say this. “I’d be…”
“Yes?” Grandpa encouraged me.
“I’d be traveling the world. Exploring new locations…going to all the places I wanted to see, talking to all of the people I wanted to meet…and discovering worlds I only dreamed of.” I gave a shaky laugh, and was surprised to see my grandfather laugh out loud.
“Excellent!” He laughed cheerfully again, and patted my shoulder. I couldn’t help but laugh back. “Then do just that!”
At his words, the smile vanished from my face immediately. “I can’t. You know I can’t.”
“Why not?” He frowned at me.
“The college…my Dad…”
“People drop out of college and make new career decisions all the time. It’s not a bid deal. Or so I hear your aunt say about her college students.” He smiled comfortingly at me, and went on. “And about your dad, did you ever talk to him about this?”
“I…” I started to say, but then stopped. I don’t think I ever did talk to my dad about it. I just always assumed he wanted me to take after his career path. “I just don’t want to disappoint him.”
“What makes you think he would be disappointed just because you chose to follow your dream?” He snorted at me. “Listen, son. I know him even better than I know you, and if he’s anything like me, I’m sure he’d be more disappointed knowing you chose to be like him against your own will.” His tone took a more serious turn, and I remained silent.
Could I…Can I really do that?
Just at the thought, I already felt the hold over my heart relax and loosen up.
“Do you really think I can do this? Can I really be successful in my life?”
“Of course you can, my boy. Now go follow your dream.”
The very next day, I went back to my college and dropped out. I talked to my father, and it turned out Grandfather was right. My parents were surprisingly happy I’ve taken my life into my own hands, and even though they were reluctant about me traveling, they still sent me off with their blessings and best wishes. Finally I was happy.
What is success?
It is failing by choice, winning by choice, finally gaining happiness from what our choice brought us, and regretting nothing in the end.
Well, to me at least.