Dada, what does success mean or look like to you?

Mi querida Patita,

This is a very good question. It’s a difficult one for me to answer succinctly because I’m confused by what it means for me right now. Maybe because it seems to be measured in relation to what others see as success? Not to digress philosophically, but by implicit definition, it is a relative term, and a comparative one at that. Can we know success unless we know what feels bad and what is failure? Is success only true when we are celebrated for it by others? Does that make me less true to myself if I choose a goal whose success can only be measured by the plaudits of others? And is it failure if I do not secure those plaudits?

As you can see, my love, I am in a difficult place right now. A real ground-shaking place. So, let me begin my answer by laying out what makes me happy and by laying out what will make me have no regrets. These are not what I consider the definition of success but are what I consider the necessary precursors to success….for me.

First thing – I want to spend as much quality time as possible with you and your mother. Getting to know you both. Both separately in our different individual relationships and together as a family. Sharing my dreams, fears, loves, hates, and life with you both. It brings me deep-seated joy. It allows me to center my life around you both…who are the focus of my life. So, why should I be spending less time with you than I desire? What should I be doing a job or work that takes me away from you both more than I would like?

Second thing – I want to be able to be around when others need me. Right now, that person is your Baba, your Grandma. She’s got squamous cell carcinoma in her right mandible and we need to be there for her. Just like she was there for me and your Tio Cristobal our entire lives. Parsing the medical opinions, diagnoses, and definitions and options available to her is more difficult than I thought. And definitely more complicated than in the past when we have approached medical decisions as a lamb approaching the slaughter. With appropriate and almost complete deference to doctors…who know better and are better informed that we. But that’s not the case here – it’s not so clear cut and even though the doctors are much more informed and have troves of valuable experience – their opinions are just that…opinions. And being here for your Baba to help parse and help decide on the best path forward that is going to preserve the best quality of life for her is something I will never ever regret. It is my honor and duty to focus my life and our lives in this way – where we can be of the best help possible in a time of need. This value and duty to your family is one that I hope to teach you.

So, with the two rather huge precursors above, does this leave time and energy enough to pursue something that will or can be judged to be successful? The answer that is revealing itself to me gradually is ‘I don’t think so’.

So, success. What does it mean to me? Is there an objective definition of success? Does it need to be confirmed by others? Why do I care what they think? Why do I care so much about achieving success? Why do I judge myself and ask myself if I have led a successful life? Is this even the question I need to be asking? Alas, I don’t know the answers to these questions, my love. And I fear that this original question has only lead to others. But I know that these questions need to be asked. Because I am very far away from even answering, much less answering it correctly.

Con amor,

Tu papa

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We at Letters To Rosie create a more connected future for parents and children by starting the We send parents thought-provoking questions each week and, through their responses, allow them to present their rich inner selves to their children.