When Success Has Its Own Ideas

My husband and I love watching biopics and documentaries about people, especially authors, musicians, and actors since we work in those industries. We love to see what makes people tick and how they got to where they are.

Not long ago, we watched Kurt and Courtney, about Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love. Oh, was that ever moving.

I have an interesting curiosity about Kurt Cobain. A dear friend of mine spent the 1980s making music, and he was about to make it really, really big. At one of his recording sessions, he heard some strange music coming from these young, grungy kids from Seattle. Jake’s own music was along the lines of Journey, Bon Jovi, and other stadium bands. He and his band were great—really, really great. They were truly on their way to superstardom.

So, what happened? Stadium rock ended. It just plain…ended. That crazy music coming from those young kids from Seattle took over the music scene. You probably guessed by now that the young kid Jake saw was Kurt Cobain.

Kurt’s life was quite sad. His parents divorced when he was young. He didn’t get along with his step-father, and he ended up sleeping under bridges. Even when he made it big, that wasn’t what he wanted. Among the many things he wrote in his suicide note was how Freddie Mercury fed off the crowds, but he (Kurt) never did.

Meanwhile, Jake kind of put the music industry on hold. He became a successful businessman, and he and his wife raised two very beautiful, highly intelligent, quite talented, totally lit daughters.

Years later, his music career was still waiting for him. He has a pretty big following overseas, and he plays whenever he wants to.

So…what’s the definition of success? Of these two wonderfully talented men, I know whose life I’d choose.

To write this blog I spent a fair chunk of time studying Kurt’s suicide note. I understand. I drank and used drugs for a bit early on. I was suicidal in my early twenties, to the point where I was put on antidepressants and in therapy. My mom had been sick my whole childhood and died when I was seventeen…so death didn’t seem like a faraway concept and, at times, it did seem like a good idea. I also had extremely serious, as-yet-undiagnosed food allergies, which can make a huge difference in mood and mental health. Nowadays if I eat a lot of gluten, I’m in a downward spiral again. One or two meals every now and again is okay; more than that, and it’s not a pretty sight inside there.

One thing about my chosen industry that I’m truly grateful for is people can become authors well into their sunset years. I went to a publishing conference once, and one of the speakers said something very wise: “Be happy right where you are. Because you say you want a publishing deal, and then once you get that? You’ll want a bigger one. And then a bigger one. And then….” Another author told me, “You’re already there. You’re already doing it.” I didn’t exactly feel that way, but I realized she was right. I was writing and my books were out there, touching people’s hearts.

The wanting might never, ever end. In many regards, that’s the human condition. We can rein in the endless desires, though. In so many cases we’re already successful: Lighting up the lives of the people around us. Studying to know ever more. Passionately pursuing our art. Lovingly raising a family. Taking good care of ourselves. (If that’s not the case with any of these, that can be fixed.)

Sometimes I hear musical lyrics that are true poetry, true wisdom of the ages. And I think, wow, that person was all of twenty-four when s/he wrote that. I was not quite there at that age. I read a book by a young author and am amazed. Then I just heard about that gentleman who got his doctorate degree seventy years after his masters, at age 105 or so. We don’t know what path people have set for themselves. But we do know our own path can shine our own definition of success.