In general, I'm a fairly lazy person. I don't like to do projects that require many steps. I like instant gratification. I'm not afraid of hard work, and I understand that in order to succeed, I need to do hard work that might take a long time, but I don't like it. Anyone who knows me will tell you that, and I fully admit it. I want things to be finished within the same day I start it. It's why if I'm doing anything that requires multiple steps, I need to set myself goals to reach or I'll never finish it. I'm also the queen of procrastination -- my motto is "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow...." It's taken a good amount of my adulthood to break out of my natural tendencies to let things fall by the wayside and actually allow myself to succeed.
But I am ambitious, which might totally confuse anyone reading this. How can a lazy woman be ambitious? It is sort of a strange oxymoron, I guess. But I guess what I'm saying is that ambition isn't always tied to following through and working hard to obtain it. They're two separate things, and that's why when I read this article about Generation Y, my generation, it really resonated with me. Because it's not just me that's wildly ambitious with little drive to carry it out. It's everyone I know.
Jealousy is another thing I struggle with. I watch other friends become successful in ways that I can understand, like through writing, and I get jealous. Why can't I be successful like that, too? But is it that they're luckier than me, or is it that they're working harder? In some cases, it's the former. In some, it's the latter. Either way, ambition, to me, seems to be the catalyst for finding your own luck and then working hard to make that luck into something tangible. Without ambition, you can keep turning the same grindstone and never get anywhere. Without hard work, ambition continues to be a pie-in-the-sky dream that makes you feel unhappy and worthless when you see other people achieving. You feel left in the dust, but is that a fair thing to feel if you can't honestly say you're combining your ambition and hard work?
And what happens to other people is their journey. It's taken me a long time to realize that their journeys are not mine. I'm the only one who can map and travel my own road, and it's not going to always look like someone else's.
There are other parts of that article I don't agree with. I have never felt special, not in the way the article describes. I have spent a good part of my life feeling worthless and distinctly ordinary. I second-guess myself all the time. I second-guess my writing talent, which I know I have...but is it just me thinking that, or do I really have it? I second-guess my ability to be a good friend, a good daughter, a good sister. I second-guess if I am actually making a difference in anyone's life. I don't feel special because I don't really believe I am. I just believe that I'm struggling along, the same way everyone else is.
And maybe that clarifies my ambition -- because it's not born of believing that I'm better or more worthy of being remembered than anyone else. It's born of needing to create, needing to share my creations, and wanting to make a difference. I don't believe the reasons behind my ambition are more noble, however. I just believe that if I do have talent, I should be using it. And so I set goals to make that happen.
I do think that my generation has grown up being told that they have to live to a certain standard. I also believe that economic conditions and changing times have made that harder than before. But that doesn't mean that it's OK to stop working for what you want, or to expect anyone to hand it to you.
I struggle so much with staying power. That is something that's indicative of the world I live in, too. We get everything on demand, from being able to look up something on Google in seconds on our mobile devices to being given our Starbucks coffee in less than two minutes. We never have to wait. We never have to think about working for what we want -- if we want a new iPhone, by golly, we can get one in our price point! And while I may have always been predisposed to be lazy, the instant culture I live in has made it a lot worse. It's something I fight against. It's not an excuse I allow myself to have.
So I pick up my pen and I outline chapters of the novel I'm working on, even if I'm tired, because if I don't do it now, I won't do it. I try not to pin all of my worth on how many likes and shares and comments I get on a blog post, or how many people read my book. I try to remember that I didn't do it just for the accolades. I did it because I needed to tell a truth to myself, or to create out of an inborn need. I have started giving myself a break from social media, from the frosted and filtered world we present to each other, so that I can focus on what's real. Real isn't always pipe dreams and sunlight through trees. Real is the nitty-gritty, stay-up-all-night, cry-over-your-keyboard, get-rejected, can't-find-the-right-words times in my life that make me question what I really want from success.
Ambition is only part of it. Wild ambition is the fuel for the engine, but the engine is represented by hard work. You can't get anywhere without both, and that's something that I've taken from living as a Gen Y'er. We've all made our own happiness. That's what life is about.
And the fact that you're reading this? Well, that tells me I'm on the right track to my own personal success -- which is to simply be heard.
This was originally published on The Stretch For Something Beautiful.