What does success smell like? I know it doesn’t emanate from the sweaty-palm-filth paper we exchange for goods, I don’t think it’s the stench left on our hands from the rungs of the ‘corporate ladder’, or the lingering vapors from the fading trail of our 15 minutes of fame. All marks in our society that you have succeeded in the eyes of others, not to be condemned, but leaves me wondering about what success really means, and how it really smells.

Yesterday, I went to “Central Office”, can you say those two words together casually, and registered A. for Kindergarten.  Yes, the emotionally weird process of our first daughter going to school has begun.  The process itself was quick; bring the forms, give the forms, copy the forms, give back the forms, and wonder how it could be that easy. “Any questions?” My only question, feeling like I should have at least one, was ‘Why do the girls and boys alternate days on the first week of school?’ I know, huge stuff, and the answer had to do with teaching the kids where the bathrooms are located, or perhaps, to divide and conquer their attention and set ‘the tone’ the first week of school.

I left “Central Office” (lower your voice and push the reverb pedal in your brain when you say it) thinking about our daughters’ future, and ultimately, about their present and future successes and failures.  Will they have friends, score high on tests, behave appropriately, and most importantly, become who they are as individuals, as they are challenged and coddled throughout their school career? How am I, as a parent, going to measure success? I know to recognize individual successes: going potty alone, walking, eating with utensils, speaking in sentences, and the latest, learning to whistle (A. is getting quite good), but as they become their own people, success will be measured by me, R., school, society, and themselves differently.  The girls’ successes, and failures, will be theirs alone.  We will share in them, but they will “be” them.  Being successful, to me, is an accomplishment based off of our abilities and chosen paths in life.  Are we ever really successful?  Shouldn’t we keep moving forward and growing, thereby ignoring the “smell of the roses”?

This is what success looks like.

These thoughts enticed another question; what does a dream smell like? That’s success, the odors that we chase not knowing where they’re coming from, but understand that they will explode a cacophony of brilliance into our nostrils as we reach for goals that create a better future for ourselves, families, neighborhoods, communities and world. Huh? I may have lost myself there, but it stays.

Have you ever watched a smoke stack billow streams of, well, streams of pollution, but for the sake of this illusion remove the whole cancer causing agents present in that cloud of ever-changing swirls, and look at it as the movement of shapeless dreams that you can’t predict. Each of our swim moves to propel ourselves through the condensed moisture bringing us to new patterns and smells of life. Yah, success is kind of like that.

My Papa Sense tells me:

Success, the smell of success, is found in the understanding that we should never be content to know what is coming through our noses next, and from the recognition that it will pass and we must strive for a better, more fulfilling, breath each second we advance. To smell the seed for a seed, but know that one-day it will change, become more, and then, it will die. We must develop our sense of smell to the point that death smells sweeter than the flower, and dream of what comes next.

How do you measure your children’s success? How do you measure your own? What is success to you?