Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Getting It

Goals aren’t stories. This is tricky because we so want them to be. Books, movies, marathons - we’ve been trained to see all of our achievements as ending points. Doesn’t matter if it’s your everyday life or a TV show you’re watching to distract yourself from it; we see a goal met and want that to be the stopping point. Kill the bad guy. Kiss the crush. Happily Ever After or a morality play - we don’t care. We just want to know how it ends. We worship ends.

If you’ve been reading my story for a long time, you’re rare. Most people stopped once I bought this property. Makes sense. Act 1: Girl falls in love with farming. Act 2: Rented Farm is threatened! Act 3: Girl figures out how to buy her own farm. The happy ending.

But it wasn’t the end. That one goal was met before I even knew myself. The following seven years on this land and what has happened within them have changed me more than everything and everyone who happened before it.

The Getting It isn’t us. It isn’t our story. Think of something you worked your ass off to accomplish? Congratulations on getting it. You graduated from that school. You landed that job. You married that person. You earned that tax bracket. You named that baby. You signed that deed. Then what? Did credits roll the theater lights come on? Of course they did because even when a part of your story is neatly tied up and notarized, life goes on. It's called Tuesday.

Goals are called milestones for a reason - they're just marking points. I don't care how large or small your dreams are - they're chapters at best. Your story is never what you did, it's what you're doing next. It is always what's ahead. Sometimes it's tangible things like plane tickets and sometimes it's a sum of intentions. A goal can be a passport. It can also be forgiveness.

Take everything you ever did that you are proud of and write it down in order as it happened. All those goals - intended or imposed - can probably be contained in one word. That's what I think the point of this messy life is, to learn your book's title as a trait noun. What do all those little movies and chapter titles add up to for you? When you close the book what one word could tell it all? Victim? Leader? Outcast? Cynic? Charmer? You only get one word for a book title and you don't even get to pick it. Other people do. It's how you're going to be remembered.

But if tonight was it? If this was when your book closed - what would your title be? If you're honest with yourself, really honest, it means you have the ability to still change it.

Over the years I have watched my own title change from Dreamer to Fool and now it is deeply embossed as Fighter. There is pride in that but mostly fear. The pride is in resourcefulness. It's in the quiet thrill of still being here on this farm living a creative life. But the majority of it is fear. Fighting is fucking scary. It's knowing you are going to get hit over and over again and at any moment I could tap out. I don't know how much more of this Endurance Test I can take.

The main sense of comfort I get is from realizing anyone who has ever made it in any of the arts did so by not stopping. Few people get lucky. "Overnight sensations" have been auditioning for ten years or have enough rejection letters from publishers to insulate their bathrooms. And my bar for success isn't anywhere near that lofty. I just want to get to a place in my professional life as a farming writer that going to bed means excitement about tomorrow instead of the gut punch fear of losing it. Solvent would be a dream book title.

All I know is tonight I want to keep Fighter and there's some serious comfort in that. It means that even alone and late into the evening, I'm not folding.  It means success, however defined, is more believable than failure. That's the only reason to fight, isn't it?

If every goal I make from now on is riddled with claw marks, so be it.

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