When I was younger, I wished for a Porsche and a mansion. That was my idea of success. I vigorously took all the advanced classes possible and aced the exams with my mind set on going to an Ivy League school. I just knew that I would somehow become famous and be able to afford that car and the dream house. All the way through junior year, my mind was planning this idyllic future.

Then in eleventh grade, multiple losses changed my na/Ove mindset. First, one of my friends died at age 16. Soon after, my great-grandmother passed, followed by my school’s assistant director and, on the same day, my beloved fourth-grade teacher. The devastation left me not knowing what to do or where to go. Death had never touched me so closely.

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After a long period of emptiness, it finally struck me: Life is not promised and neither is my future success.

While I was going through the motions in an attempt to attain material success, I was not enjoying my daily life. I was just existing. It occurred to me that life has more purpose than acquiring possessions, which will only be yours until you can no longer keep up with the payments. Although I had often been told this, I finally understood. I realized that finding inner peace, purpose and happiness will stick with you forever – and that is real success.

Enjoying life’s precious quirks makes a person more successful than a wealthy person who is not content and takes everything for granted. The summer before senior year, my attitude changed drastically. Instead of memorizing facts, I began learning information. Instead of focusing on the future, I focused on today and the many blessings and successes that come with it.

I still make excellent grades, but now I dedicate weeks to studying instead of cramming for exams, and I think about the future with a deeper sense of meaning. Success, just like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For me, being successful means truly living life each day, being thankful, and impacting the world.

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