A simple gesture of looking up can sometimes reveal pictures painted high in the sky that can change our paradigm. Often times, we look up to reassure our selves that tomorrow is going to come and give a fresh start to our dampening spirits. Then there are times when we look up and see nothing but darkness and despair.
These last few months I’ve done both. I’ve seen growth and accomplishment and I saw the faults and failures that kept me from coming up for air. What surprised me is that when I looked up gasping for air, I saw something different, it changed the way my world spun.
Every morning I get up and somehow manage to get myself to work. On my way to the office, billboards fill the sky and me being a person who enjoys ads, I take a look. Now, they don’t change that often, but each time I pass these oversized posters I noticed something different about them. Often times it’s just a design element that makes itself prominent and gives me a reason to like the ad or give it a thumbs down.
Most recently, I didn’t have to look up to take notice of something that I saw every morning. I picked up the latest issue of Time Magazine, mainly because the cover story was about President Obama and I’m educating myself for election 2012, and to my surprise, the back ad pictured a male Asian model.
Now I wasn’t only taken aback just because he was an Asian Model, but because he was a he. Growing up, I never could flip through a magazine and find someone that had similar features as I did. The picture of success and beauty was portrayed as something that I could never attain because I simply didn’t look like anyone in the public eye.
It took me a second to realize that my paradigm of success was tainted.
Tainted in a way that I wouldn’t have noticed it as a young child. Tainted so much that I didn’t think of how much paint was used to cover up what true success looked like.
I had parents to encourage me a long the way when they saw that I was good at something, but what did success look like apart from what they had told me? It looked like, Frank Sinatra, Boyz II Men, and the list goes on filled with singers and actors that were popular in the 90’s and decades before. One thing absent from that list though, was another Asian-American who shared similar characteristics as me.
You could say that I was young and unaware of what was happening around me, but really, there wasn’t any one besides Lea Solonga, that was turning heads for Asians in the 90’s.
Was my path to success a Broadway singer? I would have like to thought so, because music seemed to be a huge part of my child hood. I grew up singing Sinatra’s songs on the Karaoke Machine, you know the thing you put the over sized CD’s into the big CD machine thing. Reality set in and music wasn’t the thing I was passionate about, it was something that helped me to be creative outside of the other growing interests I had as a young kid.
The picture of success was still muddled.
Had I not noticed the Asian man on the back of the Time Magazine, I wouldn’t have realized that success was something you made it to be. This may sound individualistic but hear me out.
Success we see in media is based on wealth and power. The more of both you have equals the more success you have gained. What we see in media can influence our worldviews, but it can also skew it so that we may never see the other possibilities of what things could look like.
Now it took me a couple days after seeing the ad to reshape my paradigm and define success differently from what I had originally thought it to be. If I had only realized that the media wasn’t my only source of what success looked like, I would have looked elsewhere and saw that people every day succeeded in their own lives.
Living and breathing is a success in its own right and we take it for granted. We see things that we don’t have and work harder to become more successful so we can attain these wants. But, our success isn’t based on what we own, but the mindset of accomplishing something we put our mind to. For me, living is high on the list of things I want to do everyday and for the past 23 years, I’ve succeeded. There were days I struggled, but I made it and woke up the next day.
It may seem that I’m over reaching a little, but really success is a mindset. When we realize that someone else’s success isn’t our own, then we can finally begin to see that success is what we put our minds to do on a day to day basis and not something that is achieved over a long period of time.