“I’m going to write a book.”
“I’m going to get in shape.”
“I’m going to travel the world.”
“I’m going to…”
No. Here’s the truth: Most people won’t ever do the things they say they are going to do. Not because they are incapable; we are capable of much more than we imagine. Not because their dreams are unreasonable; many people write books, fly on planes, lift weights and eat healthy food, etc. Not because they lack time; we make time for what matters most.
Why, then, do so many rarely make it past an announced intention?
Because doing things is hard.
I’m writing this only weeks after the fourth book in my and Josh’s Warpworld series was released into the world. Don’t mistake this declaration as smugness. This book was supposed to be published in March 2016, April at the latest. Five months late. Almost a year and a half spent grinding out words in a fog, wanting to quit, wanting to crawl under the covers and give in to the voices telling me my sadness was all that mattered. I even tried to talk Josh out of sending off our “final” draft to our editor (thankfully, he did not listen to my crazy talk), I just wanted it gone, out, over with. Writing, which is never easy, as any author will tell you, had become a dreary slog and I wanted to stop.
It is at that exact point, the point where you want to stop, to walk away and find something more immediately enjoyable, that you learn what your heart wants. You come to the brick wall and now you must choose: climb over or take an easier path?
To quote Randy Pausch from The Last Lecture…
The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.
To be clear, wanting something badly does not mean you have to climb that brick wall alone. Me? I had Josh gently coaxing me on, refusing to stop, and insisting we follow the course I had once insisted we absolutely must follow. And then I had our wonderful, kind, talented editor, Candace, who pulled no punches but also patiently talked me through the work to be done. All that was required of me was to accept the help I was offered.
Help accepted. Wall climbed. Going to write a book becomes wrote a book. Easy? No. Satisfying? You bet your ass.
Part of the problem with going to is that we always see results, the end product of years, sometimes decades, of hard work, but we seldom see the drudgery and sacrifice it took to get those results. I think often of an interview I heard with Eddie Van Halen. He talked about how young boys looked at him and saw a rock star, so they went out and bought guitars and rocker clothes, grew their hair long, and went out to parties to drink, do drugs and get laid, all in the name of being a rock star someday. But when Eddie was a boy, he explained, he wasn’t doing those things, he was shut up in his room playing his guitar, playing and playing and playing.
If you want to be a rock star, or just famous, then run down the street naked, you’ll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play, and play! ~ Eddie Van Halen
And there is another layer to peel back: love.
Most parents understand the bond between sacrifice, work and love. When a parent says they love their kids that doesn’t mean they love everything about parenting. I’ve seen the look on parents’ faces in the grocery store as they try to cope with a toddler meltdown—frustration, determination, despair, embarrassment, anger, but not a lot of love. Even so, I know they love their child. Nothing about raising children is logical to me but, even so, I get it. The people you see on the other side of going to are there because they love the thing they chose to do. Eddie Van Halen isn’t a rock star because of long hair and tight pants, he’s a rock star because he spent all those years practicing, and he spent all those years practicing because he loves to play guitar.
I’m writing this today because tomorrow Prez and I move to Quadra Island, to a beautiful house looking over the ocean, thanks to an opportunity offered by a generous friend. While this move may seem like a no-brainer, we’ve lived on enough small islands and in out-of-the-way places to know that there are logistics and expenses that come with living in paradise. We looked at all of these brick walls honestly, talked things over with our friend and soon-to-be landlord, and weighed the pros and cons. In the end, the pros won us over.
Every time I think of our new home, I want to Snoopy dance. It still hasn’t completely sunk in that this is really happening. I’ve posted some photos on Facebook and you can expect more to come, knowing my penchant for enthusiastic sharing. But I’m writing this now as an antidote to that. I’m writing this, not as a cautionary tale exactly, but to show that the end result is not the whole story.
It is easy to look at someone’s life, especially through the heavy filter of social media, and see only luck and happiness. I’ve had more than one person tell me, over the years, how lucky I am and how wonderful my life is. Yes, I am lucky and I love my life, but I also want to show those people the stacks of failures, all the times the risks came with no rewards and sometimes a good dose of punishment. I want to show those people my sad bank account and non-existent retirement savings. I want to take those people job hunting with me and let them experience the frustration of trying to make an unconventional history fit into a conventional work world. I want those people to sit with me at 3am when I wake up in a panic about my future. I want to introduce those people to all the good friends and family I’ve left behind, some whom I will never see again, casualties of a nomadic existence. I want them to feel the ache in my neck and back at the end of a day of writing, and to read a list of all the fun activities I’ve missed in order to finish a work in progress. I want to show them that every going to I’ve turned into a done came with a price.
I love my life, it’s worth climbing the brick walls, it’s worth the stress and uncertainty…at least, to me it is.
Only you can decide whether your going to is worth the effort and whether you love whatever it is you dream of doing enough to climb the walls in your path. But it is worth taking a hard look at all your going tos and asking yourself what’s stopping you from doing the things you keep saying you’re going to do.
Me, I’m going to live on the ocean. Maybe I’ll see you there?