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Oh boy. I only wish success was so simple. Who doesn’t? What if there existed this systematic algorithm to achieve success? Every individual would be making his or her most grandiose dreams come true! And it wouldn’t even be difficult. Just plug in some numbers (like your age), get a few body operations (c’mon, you’ve been dying to fix that nose since your preteen years), and while you’re at it, take some personality tests (only to find out that if you were a wizard at Hogwarts, you’d be a Slytherin and that your future spouse ought to be a Taurus — call me). And voilè! You’ll know everything about yourself and how you ought to achieve “success” — including the college you have to go to, the courses you need to take, the jobs you need to apply to, the associations you need to make — the list goes on.

Obviously, success is not reducible to some procedure. But keep in mind that this is a good thing! The harder and more difficult it is to attain success, or any goal for that matter, the more satisfied one will be after having achieved it. But what exactly is this success that all individuals pursue with such a fervor?

I opened up my “Webster’s Third New International Dictionary” and skipped through the leaves of paper until I arrived at page 2282. Right there at the top of the second column was the word “success” with its proper pronunciation, part of speech, and etymology. I then proceeded to glance at the definitions. The first two were labeled as obsolete, so I set my eyes on the third: “the degree or measure of attaining a desired end.”

Well first of all, I think we can all agree upon the first part of the definition — that success is like a scale. It is a gauge of how well one has done or accomplished a task at hand. However, the real, truly meaningful part of the definition is that success isn’t simply a gauge for how well you accomplish any ordinary task but specifically refers to a task that is a desired end. Success is only attained when one pursues what one loves, what one craves, what one dreams about, what one breathes — what one desires. A person does not truly achieve success if he or she climbs Mt. Everest only because he or she was coerced to do so. Even if that person climbs the gargantuan peak in record time, he fails to succeed, because he fails to love what he does.

Moreover, desire is a feeling that only each individual can define for himself or herself. Thus, success is an entirely individual and personalized issue. Other people are not psychic; we do not possess the talent of mental telepathy. We thus cannot define others and what they truly want. It is then unfounded that people force upon others standards of success and ingrain into the minds of others that the only way to succeed is to become a real estate agent and own millions of dollars worth of property.

Unfortunately, this is what much of society is genuinely like. Even at school, only a handful of the students will actually admit that they want to pursue some really interesting yet obscure job that receives little pay. And to the majority of students in school, ask them why they want to be a chemical engineer, an ingenious businessman, or a doctor; many will respond that it is simply what they must do. Then ask them why they believe that becoming a scientist or a doctor or a professor is such a necessity; they’ll probably respond that it is what society or family or fellow peers expect of them. Of course, don’t get me wrong. There are many many people in this world who love every moment of what they do; however, for every one of those successful folk, there may be two or three who detest every single second they spend at their cubicle.

I’m proud to call my championship at the 2005 Scripps National Spelling Bee a success. After seeing eighth-grader Sean Conley win the 2001 National Spelling Bee on TV when I was in the fourth grade, I was determined to one day be able to hoist that trophy above my head just as many had done before. Of course, in order to accomplish my dreams, I had to invest a rigorous amount of work into the project. I believe I studied for about three to four hours on the weekdays and quite a few on each weekend day give or take an hour for an excess of homework or a lack thereof. It was a most fatiguing experience, but I luckily had a huge amount of support from my parents.

My mother and father are two individuals to whom I will always be grateful and indebted. My mother helped me build the foundation of all my studies; she assisted me in my study of simple arithmetic and taught me how to read at an extraordinary level at a young age. And though neither of them play a significant role in terms of my studies right now — I’m a strong independent worker and they trust me to distinguish among my priorities well — they continue to provide me with an infinite amount of support and love without which I could not have become the person I am now.

So how I will succeed in the future? I am not sure yet. I don’t even know what exactly I’m going to major in — though it will most likely be in some field like microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, or toxicology. And don’t even ask me what institute I’ll be attending after I graduate from high school; I haven’t even put an ounce of research as to which will suit my needs the best. But then again, I still have plenty of time to find out what I’m going to do with the whole rest of my life. I don’t have to frenetically worry about every little detail yet, right? Nah — makes too much sense.

— ANURAG KASHYAP

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