The “True” Definition of Success

Before I go into today’s story, let me issue all the usual disclaimers. Yes, I know there is not one true definition of success. What I write today is my opinion and no one else’s. Success can be gained with the world’s values or with religious values. I could literally talk with twenty people and get twenty different definitions of success. But, today I want to share my own thoughts of success and what it took to get me here.

It begins with my pre-adolescence, a TV show, and an actress and ends many years later with a journey to meet said actress and a realization that, for me, the only “true” way to be successful is to invest in other people like Jesus did. Y’all, adolescence was not kind to me. I was chubby, nerdy, and bullied by other people. I was as far away from being in the “in crowd” in middle school as you could possibly get. I wasn’t interested in boys, and I wasn’t interested in make-up either. I think, even back then, I knew my value wasn’t tied up in those artificial things. I was more interested in the things that mattered and in the world around me. In science fiction and action-adventure. In changing the world around me. But, those things at that time were not the things young girls were interested in. So, I longed for the role model I didn’t have at home.  I had not become a Christian yet so the closest thing I had to role models were my teachers at school and the characters in the books I read.

Enter the TV show and the actress. I was ten the year The Bionic Woman premiered. Watching the first episode, I was spell-bound. Here was a woman on television who was doing all of the things I dreamed of doing. Yes, some of it was cheesy. Yes, some of it reflected the time it was shown in. But, all in all, Jaime Sommers (the main character) taught me that what was important was the content of your character and not what you looked like. Those were important lessons for me to learn between the ages of ten and twelve and even later when I faced constant criticism for what I looked like and for not following the crowd. I admired Lindsay Wagner, the actress who played Jaime, so much and even had a poster of her on the wall of my room for a time.

Fast forward to many, many years later. I was an adult and a Christian who was married and had two children who were teenagers. Adults had poured into me as a new Christian, a teenager, and a young adult. I had learned about the best  and worst things the world had to offer, and it seemed like I had experienced all of them. Now, I’m not trying to say I was perfect. I was far from it. I could be as selfish as the most worldly or the most Christian among us. I had lived a good portion of my life. That year I had the opportunity to go to something called Dragon Con. Many actors, writers, and artists make appearances there. Some are well-known, and others are not. I had recently come back to writing, and as a science fiction, fantasy loving wanna-be author, it was the place to be. Finding out Lindsay Wagner was on the guest list sealed the deal.

So, off to Atlanta I went. At this point, as an adult woman in her 40’s, I knew that actors and the characters they portray were different people. I knew there was a chance that Lindsay Wagner wouldn’t be anything like the character she portrayed all those years ago. But, I also knew I had to say thank you for what she had meant to me. I spent the weekend going to writing workshops, seeing other actors I was interested in, and soaking up the whole experience. I noticed that some of the professionals were more approachable than others and some had very inflated egos. (It cost more money to see them.) Finally, it was time to see Lindsay Wagner. I was so nervous as I stood in line because she was my childhood hero. Finally, I got to the front of the line. She was so kind and very aware of the role model she had been. I said what I wanted to say and received my autograph and picture. It was an amazing experience and showed me that some people were aware of how they influenced others and acted accordingly.

It has been over five years since that experience. Tumultuous years. Years where the American public has become deeply divided. Years where we all have become more selfish. Years where I’ve been sure nothing would ever go right again. But, these years  have also been years where I’ve become part of an interracial church family. Years where I’ve made a deliberate focus to talk to people others wouldn’t talk to. Years where I’ve done my best to use words Jesus would want me to use. I haven’t been successful all of the time. There are people who would testify to this. Human nature and life have knocked me down again and again.

Most importantly though, I’ve worked through a lot of the garbage from my own past. My growth and experiences through this work have brought me to the point I stated at the beginning of this post. The “truest” success people can have is the success of investing in and ministering to other people. In other words, truly listening and being happy for the other people in your life. But, it’s the hardest kind of success to achieve. In fact, I know only a handful of people who are like this in my own life. People who are heart friends. People who don’t let prejudice get in the way. People who are not concerned  with cliques or what the “rules” are in their interactions with other people. People who share joy.

I am a work in progress in this area. There are days when I am at my most selfish and wonder why the “trappings” (money, achievement) of success don’t come to my family. Then, there are days when one of the maintenance guys at my apartment complex corners me and wants to talk about his Christmas because I had talked to him before. There are days when I think no one notices my presence and days when I get a comment or two saying how my writing has touched them. I’ve said my word for this year is “believe”, but perhaps I should add two words to it. Authentic and joy. That’s how I want to live. As someone with authentic joy. Not as the world defines it , but as my faith defines it. For those of us who are Christians, I believe this is the way Jesus wants us to live. And for all of us, it can bring us to the place where we know character counts in how we live. Thankful for all the heroes in my life and for the people who have invested in my life!

Have a great day, everyone!

Report from DragonCon

As promised, here is the report from DragonCon. It was an incredible experience. I went with a friend of mine on Thursday. Once we had checked into our hotel room, we went down to get our registration badges. While we were waiting, we spoke with several nice people in line. When I told people I was a newbie (first timer at DragonCon), they all offered the same advice which was not to try and do everything. I thought that was pretty good advice and thanked them. Of course, I didn’t say that my friend had already offered me the same advice. She was a long-time veteran and was the perfect person to go with for my first-time experience.  After we got our badges, she took me on a tour of the hotels where most of the panels were going to be, and then we went back to our room for the night.

The next morning I went to a writing panel with my friend which was quite good. And something else really neat happened! I ran into someone who moderates the NaNoWriMo group in my old town. She heard me saying that I was from this place and now lived in Alabama. That was all it took for her to recognize me. Very cool! After this panel, my friend and I separated to go to the panels that interested us. When I was looking at the programming for the con, I looked at four different tracks that interested me and planned my schedule accordingly. Those four tracks were the writing track, of course, the Stargate Multiverse track, American Sci-Fi Classics track, and the Sci-Fi Literature track. I wanted to see and hear certain celebrities in person as well as learn about writing and meet other people interested in writing. I spent the rest of Friday going to those panels.

On Saturday morning, the DragonCon Parade was scheduled. I was going to try and go to some panels, but when I saw the amount of people waiting in the streets, I decided to watch to parade from my hotel room window and not go anywhere else until it was over. It was quite interesting to see the creativity in all the costumes and other items that were present and also the excitement as people waited for the parade to pass by. After it was over, I went to my first panel and then went to what was going to be the highlight of my trip. Yes, the highlight. If you are in your 40’s or later, you will recognize this name. Lindsay Wagner was the star of the 70’s American television series The Bionic Woman. She is my all-time favorite actress, and The Bionic Woman is my all-time favorite television show. Anyway, what I was going to do was find the Walk of Fame and get an autograph and a picture. Once I found the Walk of Fame, I had to wait for a bit and then she came back to her table. I would have been one of the first people in line, but was told they were only taking cash so I had to go find an ATM. Finding an ATM in the hotel that still had money was a challenge, but I did it! Came back to the line and just had to wait a few minutes for my chance. It was the coolest thing, and she was so nice! I will always remember that part of my trip. Went to a few more panels and then ended my Saturday experience at the con.

Sunday was a great day too. I started it off at the Fans for Christ worship service. Wasn’t expecting a group like this at DragonCon, but was really happy when I found it. An extra bonus was that the service took place at the hotel I was staying at. Anyway, I went to the service and was very impressed with the songs and with the speaker. He really knew his Scripture and was able to relate it to the experiences of all of us geeks who were at the con. After the service was over, it was time to buy gifts for my boys and to hopefully find a particular bookstore over in the dealer’s room. Boy, was that place confusing for a first time con-goer! I walked around and saw a lot of different tables. They were all very interesting, but they weren’t what I wanted. Finally, I stumbled over the Missing Volume bookstore. Yay!! One of the authors was going to have his new book available, and I wanted to purchase it and get it autographed. His name was Joel Shepherd, and he was from Australia. It was really cool to meet him. Also had my picture made with him and told him how much I had enjoyed his first three books I had read and how much I was looking forward to reading 23 Years on Fire which starts a new trilogy. Once I was done, I purchased gifts for my boys and then spent the afternoon going to panels.

The next day, my friend and I headed back to Birmingham. Reflecting on the experience, I had a great time and learned a lot! Due to the expense, I don’t think I will go every year, but can easily see going once every few years.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day!