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What Is Success for You? A Happy Pussy, Mind, and Heart

Earlier this year, Adah of pinaywanderess.com asked me what is success for me. Instantly I answered, “a happy pussy, heart, and mind.” She followed her question with “are you successful?” of which I answered, “Pussy is not, the past two months” and tailed it with a bucktoothed glass-wearing emoji. 

I cut ties of the guy I was constantly seeing the past months then. I saw early signs of machismo and toxicity, but, and, I was a bit emotionally invested already. While the younger Jona would jump back to the dating scene, the older Jona (who read Andre Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name at the age of 27) needed to take a break and embrace and inspect the pain.

Let us unpack the term “success.” From my parents’ generation’s perspective, I’m quite an oddball. My parents feel at times, that I am successful (being able to stay afloat with my chosen path), but most of the time, they feel I’m not. 

To believe in love, to be in love, to be loved back is a form of happiness. Click To Tweet

In our culture, success has an obnoxiously linear path: you graduate, get a stable job that comes with health insurance, SSS/GSIS, Pag-ibig, and what-not, find someone who has a stable job—ideally someone who has no drinking and smoking habits, a good citizen, religious—marry that someone, have babies, send them to school, work your ass off to afford their college education, retire, and be grandparents, and enjoy life. 

I’m now 33, and my mother is already panicking. After graduating, I have bypassed everything and gone straight to “enjoy life.” The last time I visited my family (July 2019), my mother managed to mention “when are you getting married” and “pagpa-anak na lang” (have someone knocked you up) five times in a short period of three hours. 

Sassy at 33

I was traveling with A, someone I now labeled as boyfriend. And while I did not bring him home (too early for that), I duly reported to my family that, yes, I now have a boyfriend after almost two years of being single (and sleeping around with interesting characters). The latter part was rightfully omitted. Don’t worry. 

But having a boyfriend is not a happy news for Mama. Being married is, despite all the unhappy and failed marriages surrounding her. Having kids is. I have no plans on those two yet. Not yet. So for her, my life is not complete and successful. 

Channeling my inner Chimamanda, I reminded her that a woman’s worth does not depend on her being married and having kids. A woman must follow her own rules, as long as she does not break the law. I quipped to Mama then, “My body, my rules.” 

Reading is a huge part of my life.

I viewed success quite differently. I never dream of being rich, never dream of owning a car or having the trendiest gadget there is. I never dream of having a huge house that I myself can’t clean. 

I dream of traveling. I dream of reading as many books as I can. I dream of writing and publishing all the book projects I have in mind. I dream of living in a farm with my cats, dogs, and books, and who knows with someone dearest. I dream of cooking for everyone dear to me. I dream of a small house packed with plants and wooden furniture. I dream of growing my own bougainvilleas, fire trees, and banaba trees.

A woman’s worth does not depend on her being married and having kids. Click To Tweet

Some months ago, I told a good friend that my dream of living in a farm and growing all the fruit-bearing trees I grew up eating has not changed the past ten years. I asked if it is a bad or a good thing? 

All my life, we are conditioned to dream big and think that if your dream does not scare you, your dream is not big enough. I don’t know, I found this a bit unsettling and uncomfortable. Perhaps this mentality of ultra-hustling resonates with many: get that PhD, get that well-deserved promotion, have a good credit card score, buy that huge house, pay that mortgage. And I have those friends who pursue a version of this dream, and they are happy with their choices and decisions. I’m genuinely happy for them. 

But their goals do not resonate with me.

I dream of a simple, happy, beautiful, and well-lived life. 

Since I was 23, I have not experienced being confined in an 8-5 job in a literal sense. I tried, but it never worked out for me. I felt I was not good enough compared to my coworkers. And it did not feel good. So I reasoned out to myself that there should be a job out there that allows me to grow while respecting my own creative and work process. That’s how I end up wearing several hats at once: blogger, travel writer, content writer, poet, photographer, social media manager, teacher. 

I work hard. On days I feel great about myself, I often pat my own back, and say, bitch, you’re the most hardworking person I know.

I value freedom, but I understand the workings of capitalism and financial independence. I do not want to be a burden to someone else, especially financially and emotionally. That’s in my list of big fears.  

So every day, I hustle.  Every day, I inch towards my own dreams and goals. I read, travel, write, grow, and inch towards my farming dream. 

And for that, I consider myself successful. My benchmark of a successful life is to live a fulfilling, passionate, purpose-driven life. Mine is not grounded on external achievements and capitalistic validation. 

But where is love in this equation? I am very much in love. Close friends, those I share my life with, have witnessed it. 

To believe in love, to be in love, to be loved back is a form of happiness. And that alone in its sincerest form is success.

At 33, I’m happy to report, the body, heart, and mind are in sync. And that is rather rare. And for that, I consider myself lucky. It is a gift I’m very grateful about. 

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. Find me somewhere else!

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2 Comments

  1. Miles says:

    Girl, you’re damn right about it! 😊

    I admire and salute you for being a deviant, for not confirming with the norms.

    It’s wonderful to know such woman like you who knows their self-worth and empowered enough to make such bold choices in life.

    Cheers!

  2. Jik says:

    We are 95% the same when it comes to what we want in life. The love for inon-on, markets, gardening, reading books. Makes me happy to hear women who pen down what I have been wanting to scream at my family. My same definition of a life well lived. I hate the rules and the dictation of society ~

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