“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
― Ernest Hemingway
Seeking your goal has a predictable life cycle. You may or may not encounter all the stages described below, and you may face some more than once. It’s all a journey.
You start out and the path looks kind of like the start of the Yellow Brick Road. So pretty, so tranquil. It’s exciting, you have butterflies, and yet you’re strangely relaxed. A little relieved. You anticipate success.
For awhile you experience some. Things are leveling off a little, though. It’s maybe not quite as thrilling as it was at first, but you’re still happy and determined to pursue your dream, because you believe it will open doors for you that are otherwise closed tightly shut.
Then, perhaps, you get discouraged. It’s not what you expected, your skills and talents aren’t as great as you thought or had been led to believe. You’re a diamond in the rough, not as polished as you need to be.
So you take stock, add a few intermediary goals, and move forward.
But what happens when it looks overwhelming? For years I literally had nightmares about a mountain path such as this one. Narrow, with a plummeting drop to the side. In this case, heavens, on either side. You pray, you cry, you say no way. Then you find a way to make it safe, and you walk the path.
In my nightmares, I’d wake up, afraid to go back to sleep. Instead I’d lie awake and imagine a grassy field extending to the side of that precarious path, a safe place to land. You may need to find that metaphorical field in your own pursuit. Don’t let your dreams become nightmares.
Sometimes there’s a divide in the path, with no clear indication which way will keep you on track to achieving your goal. Decisions are difficult. Get a good night’s sleep. Take the counsel of others.
It is good to set goals, but it is also necessary to re-evaluate those goals from time to time.
If you expect to write six novels in six years, with each one becoming a best seller and at least one winning the Pulitzer Prize, ask yourself what you’re doing to achieve that goal. Are you getting your master’s in fine arts/writing? That kind of high-level writing takes particular skill, and it helps considerably to have direction in refining it.
But if your hope is simply to finish your current novel and get it published, that is more reasonable for most people. From there you research what it takes to get it done, evaluate your own skill, the market for the genre you’ve chosen, if an agent is a good idea, that sort of thing.
And if you find you’re not getting it done, take some time out to figure out why. I believe in having short-term and long-term goals, plans you can easily see achieving and dreams that can only come true with faith and a miracle. Give yourself a break if you keep failing in reaching your goals, and perhaps change them. There may be a legitimate reason you’re not able to do what you set out to do, something you can’t see but is real all the same.
The path is foggy sometimes. One step at time. The fog will clear.
Of course many goals require persistence. If you want it badly enough, it may be worth the falls and bruises, the perpetual failure until you break through to success. Many writers face that experience. Look for the wisdom of others, stepping outside the familiar circle of family and friends if necessary to find someone who can objectively look at what you want to achieve, advise you on its possibilities and what it takes to make it.
Figuring out how to get it done, taking the path to get there, may be more valuable than reaching your goal. The lessons learned along the way will serve you in other areas of your life, in ways you can’t imagine because you don’t know what lies before you.
Life is a journey, a series of paths that lead to a destination that’s likely very different than what you anticipated when you started. Enjoy it, and share it with others.
One of the delightful aspects of moving is coming across items long hidden and much beloved. Years ago I made this miniature Christmas scene, and as long as my cats are playful, it will remain in its box. Those tiny pieces are toys to my kitties, and there’s no place (in my current home at least) where it would be safe from inquiring paws.
This scene was inspired by a similar piece my mom made when I was a child. She still has hers, and still adds to it from time to time. As I do to mine.
I’ve collected miniatures since I was a child, although admittedly in recent years my collection has remained boxed up. I haven’t added to it lately either. I have plans for more scenes similar to this one, but again, with cats it’s hard to display anything. A shadow box would work for some things, but not everything. It might work for one idea I have though… hmmm….
Seeing this scene again, each piece with its own memory and special meaning, was a gift to me today. A gift I hope I’m able to display this holiday season. Happy things should be shared.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
“Intelligence plus character-that is the goal of true education.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.
Centuries apart, great minds came to the same conclusion. It takes more than a headful of knowledge to truly be of use in society. The one who can spout a bounty of facts may be of passing interest, but those who take those facts and put them into perspective will have a lasting impact.
Grammar police are often annoying, and with good reason. They rarely relay in any meaningful form the purpose of speaking with precise correctness. Written grammatical correctness has its place. It makes reading easier and more comprehensible. (Anyone paying attention will find errors with my writing, so no need to point that out. I know already.) And certainly speaking with clarity is a necessary skill for most of us.
But if I fail to properly use “whom” while I’m talking to you, or I tell you I’m “good” instead of “well” when you ask how I’m doing, you should know you come across as pompous and insecure about your own intellect when you correct me.
That kind of education, knowing proper grammar, is important. But knowing when it matters is just as important.
I have said it before and it bears repeating: the most valuable class I took in college was Logic 101. I was fortunate. I had a fantastic professor. Today’s world of pundits and sometime fools spouting off facts on 24-hour television requires our discretion and wisdom. It doesn’t hurt to have those skills in everyday conversation, either.
If you cook, you know salt is essential for the tastiness of so many foods. Those on a salt-restricted diet will tell you that’s absolutely true. Yes, there are healthy alternatives. Wisdom is as essential as salt, and the alternative is discernment.
I have good friends who are in education. Bonnie is one of the leaders of a state college in California, and her passion for students and learning is inspirational. As is the same spirit in so many teachers and administrators. I applaud all of you.
My cousin is working toward his masters’ in education, and plans to teach high school when he’s done. All that learning for a job that pays so little while demanding so much. Kudos to all of you committed enough to the process to pursue that highest education for the sake of others.
I hardly have to tell you educators, because you know by experience, the importance of wisdom as well as knowledge. I remember the wise words of my freshman English teacher, who’d throw those thoughts out almost as an aside, better than I remember the vocabulary tests we took each week. It’s forty years later, and they have helped shape my life.
How do I know who you are? And what do you know about me by looking at me?
As I write this, I’m wearing clothes that need a good wash, my hair is in desperate need of styling, and any makeup I put on earlier today has worn off. I need some groceries, but I hesitate to head to the store. I don’t want to be judged by my appearance. It probably wouldn’t be complimentary.
Yet even at my best, my most cleaned up, there are going to be those who judge me in a negative way.
Just as so many make assumptions about others. We all do it to a certain extent, sum a person up with our first impressions. That quick assessment is based on our beliefs and previous experiences, and is likely to be limited and narrow.
You won’t know me until you talk to me, and even then it will take some time. You won’t know me until you see me in separate circumstances, and most people don’t have that opportunity.
We have our beliefs about others that are tidily summed up in stereotypes. The Germans are stoic, if you’re from Latin America, you’re passionate. There is some truth to those beliefs culturally, but not necessarily for individuals. Each of us has our life experience that shapes our unique personality.
In America, if you’re from the south, you’re a bigot, a racist. Yankees are rude. For that last one, I’ll tell you as someone who’s lived in both southern and northern states there is a more genteel, some might say passive, approach to manners in the south. So in contrast, those from up north do appear rude.
For example, the idea of mirroring someone’s statement to show you understand them is simply not done at the very Southern company I worked for several years ago. It’s considered rude, confrontational. Instead, you should… well, frankly, I never did figure out how you’re supposed to handle it.
And while I wouldn’t call all Southerners racist, there is a remarkable them/us view with many of the people I know born and raised south of the Mason/Dixon line. They don’t see it. In fact, they justify every word of their own beliefs. As do I, with my own beliefs.
There are times when I need to challenge those beliefs. For example, you might arguably say I have some prejudice against those from the southern United States.
We make broad judgments based on a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, manner, clothing, accent, and whatever else we take in during those first seconds of meeting someone. And those judgments stick with us.
Some stubbornly maintain their beliefs, while others are willing to challenge themselves. Some give others a second chance, some are one-and-done.
Some have seen me at my worst, and don’t want to risk knowing me any further. My disappointment at those times is a challenge for me overcome.
People who know me know I’m a caring person, compassionate and kind. They know I’d do anything for my family, and that includes my cats. They know I shrivel up inside at the thought of hurting my friends.
They know other things about me, too. Things I won’t list here, because why spell out my faults?
They have forgiven me my insensitive moments, my selfish moods.
Each of us is complex, even those who seem the most simple. We all can surprise those who think they know us with an unguarded moment.
So who you think you see is not who I am. Nothing is at it appears, no one is as she appears.
Today, while talking to a friend, a man who clearly is interested in her came over and began a rather awkward conversation. Awkward for a number of reasons. He was standing way too close to her, she had no interest in his advances, and he was saying some inappropriate things. Plus, we’d been discussing a highly sensitive issue, and she was distraught.
I did what all good girl friends learn to do in junior high. Got her out of there. “Say, I have the stuff I told you about out in my car,” I said. We left the building.
She knows she needs to talk to him. Like most of us, she dreads that sort of conversation. No matter how you approach it, you know you’re going to hurt the other person. So what do you say, and how do you say it?
Another friend of mine recently made the decision to leave her husband for a man she’d known for six months. She moved across country to start her new life with Hot New Beau. She had had a lucrative career at a job she loved, and the city she moved to has little, if any, comparable sort of work.
When she told me, I made the comment (and I admit, I was fishing for more information), “I had no idea you were having problems in your marriage.”
“Oh, my husband is a wonderful man,” she told me glibly. “But HNB is SO much better looking and thinks I’m special. My husband takes me for granted.”
Well, as we all know, good-looking men make for better life partners, and the way he treats you while he’s courting you is how he’ll treat you all your life.
Not. Even. Close.
Now, there may be problems she wasn’t willing to disclose. But a spouse taking you for granted is a symptom of so many things, including just plain being married for awhile. I told her leaving her marriage was a huge decision and one I trusted she wasn’t taking lightly.
“I HATE bringing up stuff like that,” she said, referring to her concerns about her husband. “It never goes well, you know?”
Maybe her husband is a real jerk who makes her feel bad for wanting at least some of his attention, or, perhaps she’s afraid of confrontation and would rather start with someone new than work on something old. Or any number of other things. I wasn’t close enough to her to delve any further into the issue.
I would say, in addition to whatever she was dealing with at home, she was blinded by infatuation.
I fully expect Hot New Beau will fail her someday, in some measure. Of course he will. I hope and pray she’ll have learned better coping skills by then.
Relationships are complicated, no matter what level you’re operating at with a significant, or less than significant, other. Many, if not most, of us aren’t as well equipped to deal with conflict as we’d like. Others’ problems we can handle beautifully, but we fail time and again with our own.
How do we change that? Help can come by seeking the wisdom of others, people we have confidence in, those who care for us and want what’s best. Hearing your problem out loud, seeing it mirrored in the eyes of others, might give you enough perspective to make a reasonable decision.
We’re going to get hurt and we’re going to hurt others. It’s how we handle it that speaks to who we are.