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Gauri Sood: Success, to me, is found in life's connections

Not just any connections, either — the meaningful ones.

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Gauri Sood Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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What does success mean, and how can we get there?

Reading David Brooks’s “The Social Animal,” on connections, the unconscious mind, and the idea of success has made me rethink the way we live and what we strive for. 

The definition of success isn’t singular. It may not even be possible to describe in an entire novel. But what I have come to realize is that success is nothing like its societal connotation; instead, it’s a state of mind, and heavily influenced by one key entity. 

"The Social Animal" follows the lives of two normal people and the intertwining of their stories. Neither ends up particularly wealthy, fame-ridden, or even content all the time, but a lifetime of success is what they deem themselves to have lived when the story ends on their deathbeds. In fact, their lives are filled with mundane troubles, such as difficult bosses, loneliness, and career exhaustion. They’re even peppered with hardships, seemingly impossible to bounce back from, like mid-marriage adultery and poverty. So on first read, I was a little confused. Sure, it’s fantastic to hear that success is achievable through life’s normal turns, but then what does it even mean?   

We can all think of billionaires who find happiness as number 10 on their top ten list of daily emotions, and famous actors who are exhausted from the red carpets. However, there are also the rich who give back to their communities and go home at night to their loved ones, and the actors and actresses who find that their favorite part of the day isn’t the autograph signings and blockbuster preview galas; it’s the drink they get with their best friend afterwards. 

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The key entity that I and Brooks agree on, fostering what I believe is true success, are connections. Not just any connections either; the meaningful ones. Erica, the female protagonist in the story, feels empty in her old age. “Erica was not solitary. But sometimes she felt she lived in crowded solitude. She was around a shifting mass of semi-friends, but was without a small circle of intimates,” (Brooks). When asked, over 25% of people claimed to be without a single close friend. It therefore isn’t surprising that technology and money tends to be on the forefront, while mental health tags behind.  

Growing aware of the little time I have left in Rochester before college, I am collecting as many stories as I can. I spend more time making crafts with my sister, watching "Madam Secretary" with my parents, and laughing with my friends. I’ve packed new experiences, such as skiing and ice-skating, and found myself saying yes more often. The benefits to these connections and experiences are immeasurable, and they fill me with joy. 

Social connections lengthen life, strengthen immunity, and boost your day. Talking and connecting to people on a deep level feels like the closest thing to a definition of success. I know that this form of success will always be both attainable and invaluable, and for that reason, I will continue to invest in it. 

Gauri Sood is a senior at Mayo High School. Send comments on teen columns to Jeff Pieters, jpieters@postbulletin.com.

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