Students reflect on materialistic ideals of success

Human beings are constantly working to achieve a wide variety of goals. Though as a society we share similar goals, some individuals have goals that are more important to them personally. Success is most commonly understood as achieving one’s goals. In Burlingame, we are surrounded by success. Because of our location between San Francisco and the Silicon Valley, Burlingame High School students face a unique pressure to succeed in our respective career paths, with many hoping to be lucky enough to return someday to live in the Bay Area. This culture of success, however, is too focused on monetary achievements.

Junior Lola McManus defined success as, “achieving a goal that [she] worked hard for.” McManus pointed out that success is often judged by appearances. It is difficult to take a walk around the BHS campus without noticing certain luxuries like North Face jackets, FloWater machines, and Sperry shoes. Many students here are walking advertisements of their parents’ financial stability. However, not every student has the same luxuries.

The culture in Burlingame promotes how lucky we are and how safe our town is. It is difficult to complain about living in an area with so much opportunity and safety. Most of us have either said or heard the phrase, “it’s Burlingame” as a justification for something like leaving your car unlocked or walking home in the dark. Yet there are other effects as well.

Displaying the impact that living in Burlingame can have, senior Claire Yballa said, “If you grow up in this area and you are not on that socioeconomic level, you might feel like you need to get on that level.”

McManus added that the way society shapes how we view success is not always beneficial. “The values may not always be the best choice, but they are in place because people think it will improve their lives,” McManus said.

Being wealthy later in life is not an inherently bad goal to work toward, but it can distract from more fulfilling goals for the future. Success is grounded in accomplishments, which are most significant when they have a widespread positive impact. Despite the commonly agreed upon notion that money does not buy happiness, some still believe that success equals money.

“Society views success in general with materialistic values most of the time,” Yballa said. Having a personal emphasis on making money is not materialistic by nature, but can become so when the desire for money overpowers all other goals.

BHS English teacher Amy Farley has seen this emphasis as well. “There is a focus on money as an indicator of success, and what money can buy you,” Farley said. She was able to touch on how her students’ goals are very different than her own, simply because of the age gap. In high school, Farley focused on getting into a college she was excited to attend, like most of us students at BHS. However, as an adult, she has seen how her own ideals of success have changed over time.

“Now that I am an adult, success is more about doing my best at what makes me happy, and finding out what makes me happy,” Farley said.

Students at BHS are still developing their own morals and ideas of success. We are influenced by the people around us.

“Teachers, parents and a lot of society shape our ideals of success,” sophomore Evan Mahaffey said.

As we grow up and we experience more in high school and beyond, the word success may have a different definition.

Mahaffey said, “Life can throw curveballs at you, and that can really shape who you are and who you want to become.” Nonetheless, it is still important to keep in mind that life’s greatest successes and accomplishments are not reliant on any number, often not even quantifiable.

The four years that we spend as high school students are one of the most formative periods of our lifetime. While every student at Burlingame sees the same clothing brands and luxuries, the way that each person allows this to modify their own ideal of success, if at all, is unique. Yet there is one thing that I hope we can all agree on: success should not be calculated or judged by an individual’s income.

Posted on December 3, 2016 .