A short post about something important that’s been stuck in my head lately.
It’s been two whole months since I left my job to write full time. I can honestly say that I’ve been loving every moment of it, that I’ve been productive, and that I’m seizing my opportunity. Even on days when I feel like it would be nice to sleep in for an extra hour I remind myself that, a year from now, when I look back, I want to be able to honestly tell myself that I gave it my all, that I had a real go of it (raging success or embarrassing failure), and that it wasn’t just an excuse to take some time off from a day job and be lazy.
But I’m guilty of falling into a trap that I know many of us do – both writers and non-writers. I’m probably more guilty than most, actually.
And that trap is looking forward to the future, to what comes next.
Being optimistic or excited for what comes next isn’t in itself a bad thing; on the contrary, it’s actually a great thing. It gives you hope for the future, it helps you plan for it and make it happen. It propels you forward, spurring you to improve and evolve rather than stagnate for years and years and years.
But only to an extent. Because the truth is that most of our lives as human beings end up as a series of life stages where we’re more excited about what comes next than about what we have now. And never before has that been more apparent to me (Maybe I’m a bit behind on this and you’re all thinking ‘Wow Dave, welcome to the real world, this is obvious.’ Maybe you already knew this but haven’t thought about it in a while. Maybe this is news to you).
Now (capital ‘N’ not just because it’s the beginning of a sentence) is a time in my life that I have looked forward to for TEN YEARS. Even while I was looking forward to graduating high school, to going to college, to spring break trips, to graduating college, to starting my job, to moving into DC… even while I was looking forward to all those things, I was looking forward to the day when I’d be able to write novels full time, whether that be for a year or for the rest of my life (which is still to be determined).
And now I am living that dream. And even while I’m living that dream, I still spend a lot of my time daydreaming about and looking forward to and finding myself unable to wait for what comes next: signing with an agent, getting a book deal, seeing my words in print, doing a book tour, traveling the world, and on, and on, and on. “Are you crazy?” I thought to myself recently. How are you only two months into realizing a 10 year dream and already unable to wait for what comes next?
So starting two weeks ago I decided to box off a part of my morning journal to write a quick sentence or two about why this particular time of my life is the best time, and why I’m looking forward to this particular day and not what comes next (whether that be something bigger like signing with an agent, or something smaller like a weeklong vacation to Mars next month). It’s really helped me appreciate the Now, because this Now is the Previous Future that I looked forward to so much, and I don’t want to lose that.
This thought isn’t even unique to this time in my life. For several years in high school I dreamed of college and the freedom it would bring, and then as a freshman I enjoyed it, but as a sophomore I wanted to be a junior, as a junior I wanted to be a senior. When I first got my job, which was fun and new and exciting, all I wanted was to be promoted, and after that promotion I was just waiting for another, and after that I wanted to plan my exit from the company so I could write. Again, planning for the future is a good thing, but telling ourselves every single day that we “Can’t wait for three months from now, when ______,” will send you zipping through those months like a zombie, unable to enjoy or appreciate them fully.
Most of the major stages of my life during which I have looked forward to the next big thing were at one point the big thing I used to look forward to. It’s important to realize that and appreciate where you are and what you’re doing every day, even if in the back of your head you’re a little excited for what comes next. Because there will always be a next you are reaching toward. Always.
And no, this isn’t a recommendation to journal about the Now like I’ve been doing, or to give yourself a daily affirmation (both of which are great things, though) – it’s more a reminder that most of us are already living a part of our lives that used to excite us just as much as the next big thing excites us right now. If we can remember that, we might be a little bit happier now and a little bit less focused on what’s coming down the road.
So I hope you’ll excuse this ramble; it’s mostly a reminder to myself, but I did want to share, because I know most of us out there are in the same boat, whether you’re currently living out a 10-year-dream, a dream you had just a few weeks ago, or a dream somewhere in between.
We’re all extremely busy looking forward to the Next Big Part Of Our Life without realizing that we’re currently living the part we used to look forward to not so long ago. Enjoy This Part as much as you can; it’s the next big thing your past self used to want so very badly.