400th (or Rather 401st) Post: How to Keep Going

Welcome to the 401st post!

I was keeping such a close eye on when to post up a special 400th piece that I don’t know how this one slipped by. That said, I think yesterday’s Canada Day write up was a very apropos, grounding sort of post to have gotten that honour.

So while this is technically the 401st post, I’m happy to have this be the inaugurating first step into the next hundred. Because after all 400 is a landmark, but how do you go on from there knowing that each step is going to be far more humble?

2016 Down from the Door Footsteps Keep Going
Humble steps forward.

This is a philosoraptor topic that I’ve been pondering on for quite some time. I’ve reached some high water marks in my lifetime – many more than I thought possible. Every time the wave rolls back, however, I get a bad case of the withdrawals.

The first time I felt this quite so acutely was after I came back from my study abroad trip in Australia, 2011. I’d spent years preparing to go, proceeded to have the best time of my life, and then came home entirely deflated. Not only was I feeling empty because I missed the Land Down Under, but also because I’d accomplished the most distant, far-reaching goal I had at the time.

How do you go on from there?

2016 Down from the Door Trophy of Goal Achieved
Congratulations on accomplishing your dream! Now get on with your life.

The answer: I needed a new goal.

My short term goal was to go to Vancouver the next year, but that was just to tide me over for The Big One. What I really wanted now? To teach English abroad. Then, I reasoned, I’d never have to come home: I could keep monkey bar-ing across Asia and travel indefinitely. That was a plan with no slump at the end, right?

Well, that didn’t quite work out as you all well know. I stayed for two years before calling it quits and returning to Canada for some homestyle restoration. Only when I got home, I realized I was stuck in that same old conundrum of 2011.

What now??

Ricky and I formulated a dozen plans, including moving to Australia, New Zealand, California, Vancouver, and Toronto (the latter of which was just about so certain that I wrote about it in my 300th post as our surefire path to the future). The plethora of choices – each with their long lists of pros and cons – was overwhelming. But we knew we needed a direction. In the end, visas dictated our best bet was to go to the UK where Ricky could complete a teaching certification that would allow him to not only teach ESL, but be a teacher at a high school in any country.

And so it seemed we had purpose again.

Except then I had trouble with immigration, had to come back to Canada to wait for my EU citizenship, and then watched as the world crumbled under the Brexit vote.

I’m still going to try to get into the UK, kicking and screaming if I have to, but one thing’s for sure: once Ricky finishes his certification, the UK is no longer an option for us. Thus, we’re both asking ourselves, once more, “What now?”

Again, we’ve scrambled together some plans.

So far we have Vietnam, Cambodia, and Japan on our list. Farther into the future, we’d really like to move to Australia and New Zealand. Ricky’s set on teaching, and while I’m good to do ESL for a while, I’m also aiming towards getting an agent to do illustrations for books, considering a sideline career in massage therapy or possibly osteopathy, and never giving up hope that an opportunity for travel writing could one day be an option.

But the truth is none of those specifics matter.

I’ve been feeling a lot more grounded lately and I’ve finally come to realize that it’s because all that matters is that we have plans.

Because once you’re holding your guiding star in your hands, suddenly the way forward isn’t so clear anymore. At least that’s been my problem.

2016 Down from the Door Guiding Star
Reaching that guiding star.

It straight up sucks to be directionless, purposeless. It’s necessary to set goals you can achieve since castles in the sky also tend to make you feel like there’s no point, but no one really talks about the downer after the liberating high. Rationally speaking, it’s only natural to go downhill after reaching the top, but it can make you feel even worse. After all why do you feel like you’re in the dumps after completing the best thing in your life? You should celebrate! Feel on top of the world!

No?

Whatever your feelings are for Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love), she has a great TedTalk on finding center. To paraphrase, she says great success and great failure both throw you to opposite extremes of your emotional spectrum. As such, either one (yes, even the extreme good) throws you off balance. What you need to do is find your center again. From there, you gain back the perspective that allows you to go forward with purpose once more.

In the last year, a lot of my goals have fallen away. Namely, my nearly lifelong ambition to become a writer. I used to think that I could be happy working a day job and pursuing a career in writing. If Stephen King could do it with all the odds stacked against him in his early days, surely I could truck on as well and get there eventually. “Nose + grindstone + me = success” was my formula to get me into the future.

2016 Down from the Door Bohemian Dream Waitress
Waitressing in New York while working on my novel by nights? Of course that’ll work!

I’m not going to cross writing off the list forever, but I’ve been doing a lot of rethinking since leaving Korea. I’ve tried to get that writing career to take flight, but the industry is nothing like I thought it would be. And the kind of day jobs I saw myself surviving off of are not financially sustainable options – especially because I’m making travel a priority. Call it a quarter life crisis if you will, but I’m completely reevaluating what I think I want, and what I know I need, and defining my path forwards based on the answers I’m discovering.

I thought I wanted to be a writer, but I’m not so sure anymore.

I thought I could do ESL indefinitely, but it’s not what I thought it would be.

I thought I’d be able to work any job for the pay check, but I’m learning my limits.

So what now?

2016 Down from the Door What Now Future Choices
I hate choices…

Very simply, I’m making plans – many of them. I’m staying flexible. And most importantly, I’m looking farther into the future than ever before.

I can’t say I’ll never find myself in the slump between great dreams again, but I’m trying to give myself perspective. On either side, there is a mountain: behind, one recently descended; ahead one yet to be scaled. Where you are at this point is a valley.

It’s nice to rest, but it’s only there as long as you stay put. When you decide to keep going, it takes a single step. Then another. And another. Eventually you’re at the next peak.

2016 Down from the Door Mountains and Valley
Metaphors don’t make it easier though.

One thing I’ve learned though is that I far prefer having something to look forward to than the actual moment of triumph. Not so much that I’d sabotage my achievements, but rather that for every goal I have, I’m aiming to accompany it with Plans B-Z to keep me going once I cross it off the checklist.

Now, I’m terrible at following my own advice, but I’m earnestly trying to stay positive if only because I never want to end up in the dark place I got to back in Korea again. So this is one of my many attempts to make sense of this crazy world and adopt a point of view more zen than a yogi aligning chakras on a surfboard.

2016 Down from the Door Yogi Surfing
So chill.

And so, with this 1st step achieved past the 400 mark, I’ve begun my humble way out of the valley and onto the next peak at 500. Hopefully my life in the interim will have come as far from here as it has in the last hundred posts.

“The best is yet to come,” as the quote goes.

And keeping that in mind is how to keep going.

 

So how about you guys – do you have any tried and true ways to get yourself past the slumps and onto the next adventure?


9 thoughts on “400th (or Rather 401st) Post: How to Keep Going

  1. Goals should always be flexible. Years from now what matters most to you may be as relevant to present goals as your goals at 6 years old are relevant to your present self. Life is about the journey. It’s about meandering, taking detours, shortcuts and dealing with the totally unexpected. Sometimes it is even the stretches of nothingness that seem like a special space that makes sense of the colourful clutter of our memories, helping to keep them organized. By staying tuned in to details around you every day can bring something new. You can never have it all, so it is about appreciating what you have managed to collect in your basket of experiences, and REALLY being aware of the moments, the people and the places. In the end, I find it is the people who make most everything most fun or memorable for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For me, it’s been early realization, end-point planning, pushing limits, and learning the harsh truths of the universe. Wimble’s Third Law says that the universe is a harsh, cold place. It’s big animals eating little animals. It’s entropy destroying every structured object in the universe. But the thing to remember, the think to always keep in mind is that it’s not personal. There isn’t a god pointing a giant finger at you saying, “Get That Person”. The universe is blithely ignorant of your existence. When the wolf attacks, it’s because that’s the nature of the wolf, not that the wolf has singled you out for any reason other than you happen to be there.

    Understanding that made me understand that the universe and my existence had specific meaning and value only as I created it. What use did I serve? What value did I have? Well, the universe doesn’t even know I exist, so I had to find my own value, my own use. And for me, it was to kick entropy in the nuts. Since entropy, the Evil of the Universe in my view, wanted to destroy everything in the great impersonal yawn of heat death, I would counter it by creating structure, beauty, value, purpose.

    If you want to do something because you think it will be valuable to someone else, you’re mostly kidding yourself. Except for the small circle of people you love and care about and, that extremely rare set of people that love and care about you. You can’t do everything. You can’t know everything. You can’t fix hardly anything and nothing you do will persist. So, tick tock, the clock is relentlessly ticking. You have only a few minutes left to your life. Do what will please you and, if you’re lucky, generate a bit of love at the same time.

    Everything you do, every second of your existence, means there are a lot of things you cannot do. You want to travel? Fine. But that means you cannot help your mom. You want to teach? Find, but that means you will have much less time to create beauty. Do you want to consume beauty and structure, to sense the universe, or do you want to create beauty and structure?

    For me, the choice was easy, not the path, but the choice. I like to sense the universe, now and then. But it pisses me mightily that protons are decaying, that trees rot, that stones erode, that stars are forever flying further away from me. My feeble protest, the thing that gives me most joy is to kick entropy in the nuts and then say, “There, it took me one week to create this thing and it will take you ten thousand years to destroy it. And I’m not alone.”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It took me about 5 decades to reach pretty much the same understanding and truly grasp that it is about the clock counting away opportunities and forcing me into choices because one cannot do it all. So I’ve learned to juggle. Learned to focus and block out distractions. Learned to be very present in what it is I pushed aside other things for. I create my own bit of beauty. But what counts the most is the love and joy. And finding like spirits flung out across the planet that you get to gather into your world in whatever way…even a cyber universe 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah juggling time…that’s always the difficult part. Never enough time in a day. But it’s more satisfying to focus intensely on fewer things than to scatter yourself across a broader area. Darn you, clock 😛 though yes, it’s better for forcing choices you might not be keen enough to make otherwise.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. “The choice was easy, not the path” – well said. Destination isn’t always obvious in its direction, but once you find a place that gets you nearer your end goal, it’s all you can do to do what you can. I also agree wholeheartedly that it’s a really important perspective to keep that nothing’s personal – you are a speck, which is both a depressing and liberating thought. Thanks for the thorough and heartfelt comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Life seems to happen while we are making plans. I try to keep my goals as daily achievable actions, ultimately perhaps towards a larger accomplishment. If I don’t accomplish it during the day I have learned to stop punishing myself.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. FWIW … A simple statement of fact: you are already a better writer than Stephen King. He does have some great story ideas. You do also. I don’t even think of this as a compliment, just as I said, a simple statement of fact.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s