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More often, I have heard people use the terms success and happiness interchangeably
implying that these two words mean more or less the same thing. I first heard the word success
the when I was still young on the first day I was going to sit for exams. Since I was still young
at the time when I first heard the term success, nothing ever prompted me to seek for the
meaning of this word. One Friday evening, however, I decided to wind up my day with a novel
to help me relax after having a busy day. The story line of the book was interesting, and one
thing that caught my eyes in it was about happiness. The story tried to link the life of the main
character to happiness by showing how the immediate environment affected his happiness. The
way the author used word happiness made me gain interest in discovering the drivers behind it
and how it impacts on the people’s life. Success happens to have different meanings that vary
amongst various social groups. In this article, I will explore the meaning of success as in several
lenses as perceived by Dixie, Mr. Lai, high-income individuals, low-income individuals,
female community and first generation college student community.
Mr. Lai views success as being contented with the little one has as long as that little
make them happy (Urrea, 2002). He described himself as a simple kid who was not bothered
by anything that revolved around his life except for the basic needs. In his whole life, Mr. Lai
was only bothered by food, and as long as it was available, the rest did not count. His family
used to grow rice just like the other families within their neighborhood, but the man found
content with this kind of life irrespective of the kind of money they made.
In the light of contentment, Mr. Lai decided to drop out of school to search for a job
which would help him raise money to feed his family. The dropping out shows his regard
towards education as valueless which made her sisters follow suit. Mr. Lai also considers
success as freedom. He decided to go to America illegally because he thought he would go to
America to be free (Urrea, 2002).
In spite of being locked for a long time while being smuggled into the country, he still
had hope that he would get to America and bring his family there. When his children asked
him when he would be coming back home, he told them that he would not be coming back to
China, but he would bring them there in future. He ended up being in America without a job
after the manager of the hotel he used to work for attacked him with a grabber. He stays in a
hotel room which is shared by five people and on top of this problem, he had a loan for the
shark. He, however, does not regret coming to America and every time he calls his wife, he
assures her that all is well as long as he has something to eat and he has a roof over his head.
According to him, having basic needs implies success and happiness (Urrea, 2002).
Dixie, on the other hand, views success as being a good mother to her children, being
a good wife to her husband and taking care of her extended family (Urrea, 2002). She tries her
best to take good care of her children which prompts her to leave her job as a professional
teacher in Columbia and risk going to the United States of America, illegally, in search of a
good job. Dixie considers her actions as selfish since she is happy that she had to go through
all the mistreatments because of money but she is proud she made money which saw her send
her two children to university.
More so, she views the visit to Americas an adventure when she leaves her professional
and seeks something different for herself. However, she does not admit of the problems she
goes through and how she fails to achieve the goals she had set out to achieve, to her family.
As for being a good wife, Dixie was devoted to loving her husband no matter how he mistreated
her. Her husband physically assaults her for no genuine reasons, yet she does not leave him
(Urrea, 2002). After leaving her husband when the assaults became too unbearable, she finds
life even harder, but she learns to be a fighter from the situation. She left without her consent
and was only forced by circumstances. She did not want to be alone and leave her marriage
because she felt she would lose her value as a real woman. Some aspects in her, however, does
not change even after going through all the suffering. She remains loving and charitable to
other people. All these elements of Dixie’s life bring out her perception of success (Urrea,
In comparison to Dixie and Mr. Lai, low-income community defines happiness with
regard to satisfaction based on economic power (Brophy & Smith, 1997). Low income often
goes hand in hand with a high rate of consumption. Low income is often attributed to
unemployment and in most cases, it leads to a reduction in happiness. Most of the people from
a low-income community relate the rate of consumption to inequality which consequently leads
to satisfaction and the effects of status. According to research by Frank, the increase in the rate
of inequality which recently occurred in the United States affects the well-being of the lowincome and the middle-class community (Brophy & Smith, 1997). These people may thus end
up in debt while trying to increase their consumption which consequently leads to increase in
their financial insecurity.
More so, a formulation which is rank based was developed by Hopkins and Kornienko
in 2004 indicated that increase inequality leads to a larger density of people which are within
the middle income and low-income range. A larger density of people leads to a greater
consumption since they find more people they can potentially overtake. The low-income
people, on the other hand, have fewer people around them who they can compare themselves
Again, the low-income community has a relationship with the poor educational
background (Melaville, 2004). Most students who drop out of college come from economically
disadvantaged families because they are unable to persist to completion as compared to the
students who come from high-income households (Melaville, 2004). Most of the students from
this category usually do not graduate within the observed period as they tend to take longer to
complete their program. The primary cause of this is the fact that they are unable to raise tuition
fee at school which consequently makes them stay at home. The students thus end up spendi...