Success and All His ‘Friends’

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody last week.

When I first saw the trailer, I remember swearing that I wouldn’t pay money to see it because it didn’t seem like my type of movie. But then life, with its funny sense of humour, dropped 4 free tickets into my inbox to see it at the Open-Air Cinema. Side note: I ended up loving the movie so much I watched it again the very next night.

As we curled up on a picnic blanket and watched Freddie Mecury transition from baggage handler at Heathrow to the lead singer of Queen, I remember wondering, ‘When is the drama going to start?’ The first 30 minutes felt like a montage of him reaching milestone after milestone. He became lead singer, got the girl, landed an international tour and become world renowned, all within 5 years.

Even though Freddie and Queen were pursuing a vastly different goals than I was, I couldn’t help but feel little aches and twinges inside as I wondered why certain things hadn’t unfolded just as easily or quickly for me. Anyone with lofty dreams and big goals knows that having high aspirations comes with conditions attached. Namely, the self-doubt and anxiety that asks: Why aren’t things happening quickly for me? Why am I not there? How come I’m not as successful yet?

I want to pause and say that I know the producers probably didn’t have time to show all the initial striving and disappointments in Queen’s first five years. And surely it wasn’t as easy as I’ve described. But sometimes I think that’s all we see when we look at other people’s lives. At a distance, we only get to watch the highlight reel of someone else’s life and a surface level indication of the challenges they’ve faced. As a result, it can be really easy to doubt our capabilities and wonder if good things are only reserved for others.

From the outside, life really looked like it was coming together for Freddie Mercury.

Until it all fell apart.

The drama erupted halfway through the film when Freddie had to wrestle with the choices he’d made and his identity. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but anyone who’s aware of his life knows there was a point where everything came crashing down.

I heard someone say that becoming ‘successful’ opens you up to more vulnerabilities. That behind all the glitz and glamour, you have to deal with the side-effects of being in the public eye or having more responsibilities. The higher you climb, the further you fall. The bigger you get, the more public opinion you’ll inevitably attract. You’ll wonder if certain friends are genuine or just wanting a slice of the pie, and you’ll clash with people who don’t have the same vision as you.

Hearing that and watching Freddie’s character fall apart on the screen got me thinking that maybe I’m not ‘there’ yet because my character needs to be developed first. A lot of us fantasise about what it’d be like once we become successful, but we don’t stop to ask if the person we are today can handle the consequences of getting everything we want.

Obtaining the dream doesn’t transform us into someone different. We’re still the same person with the same insecurities and flaws. If we can’t handle rejection now, we won’t magically be able to handle it once we’ve made it. If we attach our worth to what people think of us, it’ll only magnify once we reach our version of success.

Getting somewhere too fast, too soon can attract a bunch of gate-crashers to a party with poor security. Left unchecked, Depression can slip in and drain your energy. Anxiety invites all his other friends, like Imposter Syndrome. They can squash you and your good intentions so you can’t remember why you started in the first place.  

While it can be easy for me to get trapped in my feelings and get salty about why I’m not where I want to be, I also know that I don’t want to be someone who crashes and burns once I reach my goals. Maybe all the waiting and the lengthy distance between our goals is so we can be ready to handle the ‘consequences’ come attached with my success. Because the good and the bad always come as a package deal. Above all, I want to be faithful with the little I have now before I ask for more.

It’s a hard sentence to process when someone says, ‘maybe you’re not ready yet.’ I’d be lying if I said I handle that thought with grace and poise. In reality, I throw mini temper tantrums because it feels like everything I’m doing isn’t enough.

Someone is probably going to read this and ask, ‘But when will I be ready?’ And the truth is, I don’t know. No one else will be able to know but you. You’ll most likely hate this answer, because I did when someone else said the same thing to me two days ago. But it’s true.

Being ready isn’t a destination you arrive at. No one hands you a certificate that says ‘You Made It.’ There’s no map that marks X as the spot and the trail you use to get there. A map implies that there’s a chance you’ll go the wrong direction. But no matter how long or slow it takes, or what path you choose, everything that’s happening is refining you into the person you’re supposed to be when things do fall into place.

It’s easy to discount the places where we feel like we’re moving backwards or are stagnant. I remember having dinner with a friend last year who told me there was a time where it felt like absolutely nothing was happening for her.

“A few months ago, I landed this job, then aced this comp, and figured out what I wanted to do. And now I feel like nothing’s happening and I’m not moving forward. I just want to go back to those months where I was kicking goal after goal and winning at life,” she told me.

What I wished I’d said back then was that it’s easy to desire this idea of always jumping from one mountaintop to the other. It’s easy to crave the cheap thrill of a victory over and over again. But it doesn’t work like that. We eventually have to come down from the mountaintop and live our life in the valley in-between. Because it’s in our everyday life that we get to encounter all the things that’s going to prepare and equip us for the next victory we’re about to have. Your valley may be teaching you how to be patient with people or how to handle your finances. It may give you the opportunity to be a follower so you’ll know how to be an effective leader. And what a pity it would be if you missed all that gold because you were too busy chasing after accolades and validation.

Instead of wondering why we aren’t there yet, we have to appreciate the valley we’re in and trust it’s preparing us for the next level. So for the people who are going to read this then go back to scrolling and feeling discouraged, know that your mountaintop moment will come again soon and you’re exactly where you need to be.

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

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