For me, the oddest thing is realizing where I am and how I got there.

Not in physical distance, mind you. At 19 years of age, I sure hope I’m not developing an early case of alzheimer’s disease.

I mean “where” in terms of chronological distance, remembering how, in my early years, it was almost impossible to imagine myself in college. But here I am, having completed the tutorial session of my life and entering higher levels.

As I look back, I wonder what I define as success. Here are a few things I think have characterized me in these two decades:

Success is learning to take healthy risks ― not life-or-death situations ― no matter what the outcome will be.

It’s like the mantra I’ve reminded myself of throughout my life, “The worst thing they can do is say no.” For someone who often worries about how I present myself in social environments, this is a big deal.

It really is that simple ― to recognize there’s no reason for people to lash out about your choices. And if they do, be satisfied with putting yourself out there. Apply for the job or scholarship, approach the person you’ve been wanting or needing to talk to and share your thoughts and ideas with peers.

Success is learning new concepts or tasks and adding to them ― even if it’s something simple.

I’m the type of individual who isn’t apt to do something outside his natural capabilities. I’ve noticed this at a young age, when I gave up sports altogether and retreated into my corner of imagination at recess.

Nor am I the handiest person around; I’d rather have someone else evaluate my car or fix a broken piece of furniture. Still, learning to readjust the toilet chain is as easy as opening up a wikiHow article, and it’s something to be confident about.

Success is learning to let go.

There’s freedom in making a decision, but it’s even more liberating to acknowledge when it’s out of your hands. Try as much as possible until you can safely say, “There’s nothing more I can do.”

If it means having a Jesus-take-the-wheel type scenario, sure, do whatever’s happiest. I think the best way to remove misery is to root it out or leave it behind ― either way, it’s gone.

Success is having gratitude along the way.

While it’s good to think about how far we’ve come and to give ourselves due credit, there will always be people on the sidelines molding you. Some of these people, such as friends, former teachers or neighbors, probably might not know the extent to which they’ve helped.

It might not even be a person: maybe it’s where you grew up, went to school, or maybe it’s an organization that assisted you through troubling times. If bad influences or naysayers came through in the past ― most of us had a few ― then show appreciation toward yourself for becoming stronger.

I oftentimes wonder if how I showed gratitude was enough or if I haven’t fully connoted my feelings. A simple thank you is good in most instances, but I think people ought to be told the lesson they taught without knowing they taught it.

And in the matter of lessons, I hope I can leave one.

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