How do you celebrate success? Simple question, and yet one that I’ve wrestled with for decades.
I’m setting the Wayback Machine to 1980 for context. That summer, between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked at a the K.B. Cinema on Wisconsin Avenue, in Washington, D.C. Seating 767 people, the theatre was either second or third largest in the city.
I began the hot, humid summer as an usher, wearing an embarrassing bright red usher’s jacket. The Empire Strikes Back had just been released. It was shown in only two theatres in the entire D.C. market and the K.B. Cinema was one of them. That meant every show was sold out from 11:30AM to the last show which started around 11:30PM.
There was a perpetual line of people waiting to get in all day. To maximize profits, we’d sell to people outside the theatre waiting on line, like vendors at baseball games. I’d walked the line yelling “Get your Ike’s and Mike’s, Jujubes, and Milk Duds!”
It didn’t take long for me to get promoted to Night Manager. Upgrade to blue blazer. Yay.
Yeah, I was that guy, the one who volunteered to do anything and everything, looking for recognition. Hello validation issues. Anyhow, as the night manager, I had a variety of mostly mundane responsibilities and a couple important ones, like making the night deposit with all the cash that had been collected in the course of the day.
At the very end of the night, after I deposited the cash, theatre cleaned with no stray popcorn kernels to be found in the royal blue carpeting, the last thing I did was turning off the marquee lights. The switch was next to the front doors. After that, I’d leave the theatre, locking the doors behind me. I was finished. No loose ends. Just a feeling of immense satisfaction I had done all that was asked of me.
I was successful.
I have spent most of my adult life unable to reconnect with that feeling. I devalue my accomplishments. For instance, my first reaction when the Elephant Journal published one of my essays was “well that’s great, but until I publish fiction, it doesn’t really count.” I suspect there’s a connection between denying myself the right to celebrate my own successes with a part of me that still feels like I’m still “broken” and not worthy.
On my journey, one big step has been embracing compassion for others and myself. Another is learning to savor moments. My reluctance in savoring my own successes suggests I still have a long way to go with my compassion for myself. I hope, and believe, that by virtue of being aware of this basic disconnect I’m on the right road.
The bottom line is, I am a work in progress. I still have a long way to go. Before everything else, I just need to embrace patience, and keep working at it, hence the quote I dug up for this post.
Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. This scene has absolutely nothing to do with anything in the post, other than the fact I’m currently binging on 30 Rock. Enjoy.