Lately I’ve been feeling a whole bunch of adjectives – exhausted, hopeless, resigned, gloomy, despondent… And I haven’t wanted to do anything at all, least of all create. My main daydream at the moment is to get a week of sleep and to wake up as a modern day Pollyanna version of Shakespeare. I know, I’ve been told my expectations are a teensy bit up there. But I’m so tired and I want so much out of this life.
Life is about living, after all, right?
We’ve all had it drummed into us – how we only get one and we need to make the most of it. We get fed all of these inspirational messages that feel more like guns to the head. Live as if you’ll die tomorrow. Have no regrets. And it’s so much external pressure building up internal pressure, and you have no idea whether you’re going to implode or explode before you’ve made your myriad goals. Our western world has given us so many gifts that if you aspire to be anything less than a world famous, cancer-curing, bestselling, doesn’t-look-a-day-over-eighteen astronaut, who runs a multimillion dollar Ayurvedic juice company raising money for starving African children, then it seems like you’ve given the whole western hemisphere the middle finger.
I’m sick of physically wanting more all the time. It’s such an uncomfortable feeling. I mean, reaching for the stars inside is admirable, but when you’re making yourself miserable and panicky, when your heart seems to be wrenching itself out of your chest, when you can’t sleep and you feel sick and the world is shrinking around you like some crappy Indiana Jones spoof, well, that’s just not healthy.
You can work so hard and tick all of the boxes and network all you want, but sometimes your ducks don’t want to sit in the damn row. So what then? Does trying and failing make you a pointless person? Um, no. But if I know that, why do I find it so hard to apply the lesson to myself? I mean, I’ve watched It’s a Wonderful Life an embarrassing amount of times, and I know that we do so many great things that we don’t even think about, but still I feel like if I’m not at the top of my chosen ladder, I’m at the bottom.
But you know what? You don’t have to have it all and do it all and be it all. You don’t. I don’t. I’m done with thinking that my life is pointless if I don’t get to the arbitrary destination I’ve stabbed on a metaphorical map. It’s just not true. I am a living being and I make my worth felt every single day. We are all constantly making ripples in the water and waiting for a splash. But something is happening under the surface, something is moving. There is life. You matter.
You are the creator of your own world. It is yours to do with what you want with. Only yours. You might not be Shakespeare or Einstein or Mother Teresa, but you are you and that is good enough.
I think it’s time to pay attention to the little things. We are so focused on climbing all the mountains that we don’t stop to make daisy chains. When I was a kid, I was so happy to colour and roll down grassy banks and make puppy palaces out of cardboard boxes, but now the idea of getting something so big out of something so small seems ludicrous. That’s the problem though.
When North Korean defector, Joseph Kim, was asked what surprised him most about life outside the dictatorship, he spoke about barbeques and lying on the ground. The thing is, we don’t notice the little things right now, because we’re too wrapped up in the big things, but if everything was taken away from us, the little things are the things we would miss. Can you imagine a life without hugs and high fives and photographs of friends and sitting in the park on a sunny day? Can you imagine a life without the people you love? Can you imagine them thinking that they’re not important because they’re only halfway up the ladder? It might be nice to see your novel in the window of Waterstones, but it’s also nice to hold hands and share coffee and in-jokes.
Sometimes I make my goals into rods to beat myself with. Sometimes I need to stop and figure out how to break down the brick wall, but instead I just butt my head against it. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to get anywhere, and it’s during those times that I need to remember to bake cakes and doodle, because those are the stupid and important things, ropes waiting to tug me right out of bleak moments, to remind me that having it all isn’t really having it all without a cup of tea and a biscuit.
Yes, I have goals, but I also want a life which is enough on its own without the ladders. I need to stop beating myself with my own ambition, and I need to stop making monsters out of my hobbies. In the words of Katie Green, “How do I explore and honour creativity as a gift, not an obligation?” I think the answer is with love, for myself and for the world. This life is a gift, and yes, we might only get one, which is all the more reason to drink it slowly and savour the flavours. There are bigger things than bestseller lists, and those things are so small that I forget them.
This misery is my wake up call. Happiness is a way of life, not a destination, and I’ll never get there if I’m following the wrong signposts. So I’m going to keep my eyes open and follow the road of little things, and it won’t be so bad if I never get anywhere, because this road is a good enough place to be.