I’m 30 now, the age I was always meant to be. This seems like a good time to write a post with some subheads of conclusions I’ve reached in three decades. Luckily, I have subheads AND conclusions, though I reserve the right to modify both.
1. The work is its own reward.
For me, “the work” is writing. (Also sometimes photography, and frequently video editing, but in this particular instance, I’m mostly talking about writing.) For you, it might be something else. Woodworking, perhaps. Or design. Or maybe it’s writing. Regardless, in any creative endeavor, it’s easy to get caught up in the end result.
What will I do with this?
Will anyone buy this?
Will I ever finish this?
For me, these thoughts have been often prevalent. What’s the point of it all, anyway? Money? Acknowledgement? Surely the work must have a concrete, tangible, validating end result to make it worthwhile, yes?
Through a fair amount of seeking, I’ve found the answer to be, “not really.” These things are nice, yes, and we need the occasional sprinkling of them to keep motivation (I do, anyway). But the truth is, the real reward is just the work itself. Not even the final product, but just the work. The process of sitting down to write, or firing up the space heater in the garage and getting into a hunk of pine (or ash? Oak? Whatever you people use). The process. The challenge. The act of engaging, of concentrating, of working through it. Of consciously tuning out distractions and giving the time to yourself to do your work. This is the gift. The cathartic, unique, independent practice of doing your work. And, when it’s over, of having done the work.
That’s where the reward lies. And, whatever the medium, that’s the reason we started doing it the first place. The purpose is the work, and the work is the purpose.
(For more on this, I highly recommend Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. Right up there with any book on craft/process. Motivating, enlightening, and an easy read.)
2. People are not who we want them to be.
They are who they are. They are who they are, and it’s best for us, as individuals, to come to terms with that, and love them as such.
I get angry over the littlest things.
Why do they say things like that?
Would it kill him to offer to pick up a tab once in a while?
Lots of different versions of this. Basically, why isn’t Person X acting like I would in this situation? This has gnawed at me with both strangers and friends alike. I just don’t understand why (s)he’d do that. Can’t (s)he see that’s annoying/cheap/being an asshole?
But here’s the thing: none of us think exactly alike. What seems obvious to me may never cross the mind of the man across from me, and vis versa. What may seem like a dick move to me might just be good natured fun to him (and vis versa). We have different thought processes, so we reach different conclusions.
And here’s the other thing: there have surely been innumerable times in which I was annoying/cheap/an asshole. And I didn’t even realize it. Because I wasn’t mature enough, or my mind was elsewhere, or I mistook a gesture for something it wasn’t. And the involved parties let it slide, because it wasn’t a big deal. It’s almost never a big deal.
It doesn’t mean you should let people get away with shit. It just means you can respect that they’re coming from a different place than you. People aren’t who we want them to be. They are who they are. The only thing we can control, individually, is being the best we can be, and it’s our job to do that, and nothing else.
3. Pass on the pancakes.
This one has been a slow, painful realization, but as I sit here at 30 years old, I have finally come to the conclusion that pancakes are simply not a suitable breakfast in most situations. It’s hard, because I used to love pancakes, and in a way, I still do.
But my God, there’s nothing that derails a day quite like a syrupy stack of flapjacks in the morning. You down them eagerly, because it’s basically like dessert for breakfast, and for a little while, you feel great. They’re delicious, after all. But then the expansion starts. That spongy cake starts to swell inside of you, and push on the walls of your stomach, and before long “pleasantly full” has become “I am so full, I wish to die.” Combine that with a half stick of butter and the sugar rush of 400 grams of high fructose corn syrup, and you’re going to need a three-hour nap, no matter how many cups of coffee you down in the interim. Quite the price to pay for a three and a half minutes of blissful scarfing.
Is it defeatist to admit I’ve moved on to more practical, egg-based breakfast choices? I suppose so. But the truth knows no shame. Heed my warning, friends, before another Saturday is wasted.