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I am often fascinated by people’s definition of success and how it’s quantified. It baffles me how rare happiness is part of the conversation, but can’t help but wonder if that’s just a product of my privilege. My mother and father came from humble means and were able to provide what they saw as a better life for their offspring by finding a way to attain citizenship in this country. First generation children of immigrants know this concept very well, as our parents won’t let us forget it. But am I to believe that from their early 20’s, their driving passion in life was to have children and make sure their kid could enter a healthy economy?


As I get older I find it easier to put myself in their shoes and really consider what motivated their life choices. Frankly, I am far more inclined to believe that their motives were driven by the pursuit of their own happiness. But what does that mean? I remember thinking as an adolescent that I needed to do well in high school, so I could go to college, get a degree, allowing me to have a reliable way to support my family. Ultimately that’s what would bring me happiness. So I strove off, applying myself so I could attain what was promised to me. The older I got, the more I realized I had been misled.


I have met people who provided me different perspectives on what happiness really means. There’s more out there and until you’ve explored the different possibilities, how can you truly know what happiness really means to you? I finally began to understand that everyone’s definition of happiness is different and that maybe allowing someone else to define it for me, isn’t a good idea. I still speculate about why no one had told me when it was most important.


My definition of success has nothing to do with how your professional peers or your family perceive you. I believe that success can only truly be defined by the individual. I believe that success can only truly be measured in relation to happiness and to find happiness you must first be able to define what happiness means to you. I believe the only true way to define happiness requires years of self reflection and learning how to be honest with yourself.


I am thankful for the privileges life has afforded me, but I don’t think I can confidently say that I believe my parents are truly happy. I find this very troubling. Only time will tell if my philosophy on success and happiness is something that served me well in life, but I can confidently tell you this, so far so good.


-Juancarlos Amaya


About the author:

Juancarlos Amaya is a freelance cinematographer living  in Los Angeles, CA.