How I Defined a Successful Career

As I reflect on the four years I have spent in this whirlwind, I ask myself: was I successful?

On a campus filled with over 7,000 undergraduate students, I don’t think I have the energy, nor my fingers the stamina, to write all their varied goals down. It is safe to say that Georgetown is a passionate community. And it is this intensely committed student population that drew me to Georgetown over four years ago. But in a place that is so large, with so many dedicated students who have so many ambitions, knowing your own place can be intimidating.

Back in high school, I used to think success could be measured. Like many students who walk the halls of Healy, I was a bit of a superstar in high school. I won a lot of awards. I danced lead roles at my home studio. I even graduated salutatorian of my class. I was lucky. I had teachers and principals and dance instructors hand me pieces of paper or medals that told me I was a success.
And then I came to Georgetown.

No longer was I a superstar. I was just another one of the 7,000 students trying to find her footing in a large and varied swarm of opportunity. And while it was easy to be heard in a high school graduating class of 180, finding my own voice amongst so many more was not so simple.

As I adjusted to life on campus and joined activity after activity, I actively looked for ways to show my success. I obtained officer positions, sat on councils, became a featured dancer and choreographer and sought out leadership opportunities at every turn. Yes, at times my pursuit was a little excessive. On a number of occasions, my roommate had to comfort me as I complained about my packed schedule, and she always asked, “So what are you going to quit now?” But I could never seem to stop myself. My success was contingent on how many titles I could gain. I was not really successful unless I had the recognition to prove it, right?

As I looked back at some of the proudest moments I have had here at Georgetown, I have come to realize that my definition of success was completely wrong. The moments that have given me the greatest feelings of accomplishment over the last four years have absolutely nothing do with any titles or awards or recognition. They instead consist of the small things — like watching the dancers that I helped bring into the Georgetown University Dance Company thrive. Or hearing one of my dancers comment on how she could dance my piece for an entire show since she enjoyed it so much. Or giving a friend a hug and having her tell me I made her day a little bit better. These are the moments I cherish the most and how I choose to measure success. Not by the titles I’ve gained but by the people who (I hope) had a little bit better experience here because of something I did.

If there is anything I have learned over the past four years, it is that recognition is fleeting, but being a man and woman for others is endless.
So for all of you who still have time left here at Georgetown, go out there and make someone’s life a little bit better. Smile at others as you walk through Red Square. Spontaneously give someone a hug. If you do, every day you have here will always be a success.

A3_CatharineMaitner_AlexanderBrownCatharine Maitner is a senior in the College.

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