When I was growing up, success looked like a handsome, masculine black guy with a neatly shaped black beard. He wore black shades, a sky-blue suit, and shiny, polished khaki shoes that made it possible for someone to see their reflection. The handsome guy held a bunch of car keys, an expensive golden watch enveloped his wrist tightly and he was leaning on a Mercedes, staring at his mansion.
Before our handsome black guy got here, there was so much he had to endure. He had to keep his eyes on the goal. He had to work more than others. When others slept, he rose to work on his project. He slept for less than six hours. His posts were entirely about making money, and getting rich. He never had days where he posted memes or a video of himself and his friends having fun. He read something like, ‘make money or go home’. He worked tirelessly even when he was sick. This guy had an ongoing engagement with his business, he missed the hangouts with friends. He missed Eid celebrations with family. He missed Fifa. He missed the magic in the eyes of that little girl who kept staring at him before he opened the door to his room. He was focused. He was hardworking. I never saw him drained, crying, or being vulnerable to a friend. He was perfect.
As I grew up, I followed his manual of success. My friends, and family followed it too. It wasn’t fun but it was a manual that could help you get to own a mansion and a Mercedes and anything else you desired. As we followed the manual, some of my colleagues managed to get to where the handsome guy was, we called it success. Some friends left the world for being frail along the process. They did not work hard enough, they couldn’t follow the manual. They failed.
Years went by, and the handsome guy and his manual sounded like a boring lullaby in my ears. I guess I was tired of waiting for success. It’s not that the guy was no longer attractive but his way of achieving success was unattractive. I wanted to find success in the present, the manual portrayed success as a future thing. What if I don’t get to the mansion of success? What if I die on the road to the mansion? Will I die sad? Unfulfilled? I had to redefine success.
Success could be getting to the mansion and the Mercedes but success also means enjoying the journey in between. I dropped the other guy and his manual to redefine success. Now sucess looks like a handsome, hardworking man taking an entire day off for himself. He’d lock himself in his room to watch Raya and the Last Dragon. Sometimes he’d go walk at the beach, swim in the ocean, and share memes on his social media walls. He would celebrate Eid with his family and leave his laptop alone. He would pay attention to the little girl who stares at him before he enters his room. He would stop to see the magic in her eyes, the innocence in her sleepy face. He would do a hi-five with her to feel her soft hands. Our handsome man would have a bunch of crazy, religious friends. They’d hang out sometime and talk about the nights they barely slept thinking about market rates and if their businesses would survive inflation. They’d laugh about how they are all still single while their peers are going down the marriage club seriously. They’d plan about their wedding scenes, they’d play scenes of them being fathers and having naughty, loving wives. They’d plan on wearing maroon kanzus while attending the next Da’wah conference.
Our second handsome man has his eyes on the goal. He has a bigger picture of reaching the mansion and leaning on a Mercedes. However, his manual allows him to live every single moment wholeheartedly. His manual allows him to feel success in the ability to see magic in the little girl’s eyes. To feel successful by celebrating Eid with family or spending a day alone watching Raya and the Last Dragon. He works hard and he makes sure he is enjoying the process. Whether he gets to the mansion or not he will die happy. Whether he leans on a Mercedes or not he is happy. He is not a loser.
Sometimes he trans-nights working on his business portfolio. Sometimes he is too busy and forgets to do a hi-five with the little girl. Sometimes he feels drained and exhausted and he takes a break from work. He is imperfect and he knows that life sucks at times. Sometimes he works while inspired, sometimes he enjoys the process, and sometimes he goes with the flow. He celebrates himself along the way to the mansion. He doesn’t postpone his happiness, he lives feeling it, even in the darkest times.
I hope you choose the manual of the second handsome man. I am praying that you enjoy the process as you journey to the bigger picture of whatever you want to achieve. Find magic in waiting. Find happiness in helping your siblings change diapers. Find fulfillment in sweeping the village compound in the early morning. Find magic in preparing a meal or helping a colleague. See the beauty of silence, of those moments when you are drained and sad. See the beauty in doing your assignments and making them fun. You might get to the mansion or die along the way. Instead of waiting to get there in order to be happy, enjoy the process and find magic on your way.