“Success” Is NOT About Getting IG Likes, 4.0 GPA and Becoming Rich



“Success” Is NOT About Getting IG Likes, 4.0 GPA and Becoming Rich

Life, it's a funny thing. 

Often actually, it's not always that funny. It's many things…

Tonight, it was “many things” at the same time. I took Bella to St John's, for her second session doing a Neuro Psych evaluation. They do testing to see how she learns, and maybe we get some more help for her, beyond what the schools have been able to do. Bella is 12, almost 13, and has had pretty wicked anxiety, lots of it school based, since at least third grade….

Today, she was in testing from 5:15-7 PM, like a champ, after a full day of school.

So I treated her to an Impossible Burger, at Burger King.

We sat, waited for the food to get made, and a guy came in.

Right away, you could tell he was off. Male, Caucasian mid 30s. He started coughing. Then coughing harder. He took a hit from an asthma inhale, then sneezed hard. “The Corona Kid,” I muttered to myself. Bella heard me and laughed under her breath. I just shook my head. LIFE. 

Not funny, but kinda funny. Sad, but you gotta laugh.

The guy stopped coughing, then went to near the cash registers and did a loud running commentary on his food, how he wanted it made, when it would be ready, etc. Me and Bella agreed, if he sat near us, we'd move. Sorry, CK…

He didn't, he sat away from us. We finished eating, I over-ate, the BK had a Popeyes in there, and I ate a vaunted chicken sandwich. Same as you, I though it ho-hum.

Bella then said to me, “See that guy over there? The one with the beard. You think he’s homeless?” I had seen him as I walked in, I told her yes, I think so. She said she wanted to give him the rest of her fries, she had set them aside, I hadn't known why.

How bout we buy him a burger, I suggested. Yeah, she said, but what if he isn't homeless, I don't want to offend him, she said.

Nah, just get the burger, you can give it to him, I watch your back.

I handed her a $5, come to think of it, she must have got him fries too, because she said it came to $5. She got the food, in a bag, we walked over to him. 

Bella said, “Excuse me,” because his eyes were closed. “Here ya go,” she said. “A burger.” 

He smiled, warmly, and said, “Thank you!” 

“You're welcome,” Bella said.

“Peace, have a good night,” I said, and he smiled again. He got right at that burger, Bella looked in on him when we exited the restaurant.

We got into the car, Bella said sorry I spent the whole five. Money well spent, I said, that fed my soul!

So, this girl has a hard time in school. (My strong guess is she is ADHD, and this evaluation will confirm that. A shrink heard me talk for six minutes, in November, and asked me if no one had ever told me I was ADHD before. No ma'am, they did not. I wish they did…The life is now better understood, looking back. Like, back in high school, the history teacher, I think it was junior year, mid-class, stopping a lecture, and saying, “Woods, you’re great. Retarded, but great.” I had probably said something aloud that should have not been said out loud, it might have been somewhat funny, but I had-have a wandering mind, it goes off on digressions, and often has difficulty thinking five years, five month, five weeks, five days, five hours, even five seconds ahead. But all that's about water and bridges. Anyway.)

Bella is a bit behind grade level in reading. But in the KINDNESS and DECENCY and HEART department, she's good, by and large.

And that, my friends, should be, IMO, a large component of schooling. Encouraging those traits, and learning how to BE, in a wild world. Is there any reason why 1/5 of the school day isn't spent on a mix of movement, and self care, of how to best care for and use your mind, body and spirit?

If “they” don't get that, and the system doesn't change, and we keep on this track, of thinking we gotta do more school work, more home-work, to get those great grades, to get into that good college, to get the GPA and the connections to make that great money…then I will try to work every day to adhere to a personal lesson plan.

Encouraging acts like the one Bella did, processing it, celebrating it, that's probably how I am best at “teaching” her. I suck at helping her with her math homework, the humanities I'm OK at…But if I can help her and Jules understand that doing those acts of kindness, THAT is what makes a successful day, then I believe I'm setting them up to be one step closer to being decently suited for this world. 

Because you don't have to possess that high grade IQ, or excel in school, to “succeed.” Anyone can do it, that's the wonderful thing. You don't need “connections,” or be vaulted from an Ivy League school. 

Oh, and for the record, lest anyone think I'm trying to toot my own horn, not so much. I LEARN from Bella….She regularly talks to and gives money to a lady who sits at the Seventh Ave train stop. I learned that when she asked me for ten bucks, because she wanted to buy the lady a chicken dinner, for Thanksgiving, the day before Thanksgiving.  

I stopped walking by that same lady, eyes trained forward, with the “I don’t see or hear that pan-handler” stare going, and now I say hello, and most times, reach into my wallet and give her a buck. 

She will start talking about Hillary Clinton, or how she thinks Prince Harry and Meghan are jerks, or whatever, and I listen for a good minute, then extricate myself.

Life, ideally often there'd be more laughs, yes? But because this isn't playing out as an era that will be recalled for its overhanging optimism, as a time in which we the people were quick to grin, and chuckle and find it easy to see the bright side of things, we have to adapt as best we can. 

Working for a shift on the definition of “success,” toward a movement in the direction of being kinder, gentler, more selfless, don't assume that won't take hold. It probably will just a bit longer than many of us would like. The good stuff, the real, good stuff, usually does.


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Founder/editor Michael Woods got addicted to boxing in 1990, when Buster Douglas shocked the world with his demolition of the then-impregnable Mike Tyson. The Brooklyn-based journalist has covered the sport since for ESPN The Magazine,, Bad Left Hook and RING. His journalism career started with NY Newsday in 1999. Michael Woods is also an accomplished blow by blow and color man, having done work for Top Rank, DiBella Entertainment, EPIX, and for Facebook Fightnight Live, since 2017.