The worst dreams and aspirations are the ones that quite often go unfulfilled. Never to see the light of day. Never to bring a smile to your face, or the faces of those you get to share them with. Never to become a shining beacon of positivity; a faithful personal lighthouse guiding your way as you set sail upon the open waters of life. A reminder that the most important things lie ahead of you, not behind, and while they may be out of direct vision they will quickly become clear so long as you remain steadfast, and true to yourself.
Of course, this entire premise can swiftly fall apart the moment we encounter any form of anxiety, fear, or indecisiveness. Quickly shuffled to the proverbial back burner of life, that “someday” item on your todo list still somehow manages to keep itself riveted to the back of your mind without even having to fully acknowledge its ink or graphite etched scribbles in your journal, or the glowing pixels of guilt on your nearest digital screen. It feels easier not to tackle that big first step, instead putting it off for another day that sadly may never arrive. Author Steven Pressfield coins this phenomenon Resistance in his book, The War of Art:
Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
Upon initially reading this quote, one might surmise that we need only avoid the external source of this seemingly formidable foe, and we can then make our dreams manifest. Unfortunately that ungrateful bastard, reality, as is its wont, has other plans as Steven also points out:
Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.
Well, shit. There goes the simple and planned workaround of heeding that ”Beware of Guard Dog” or ”Do Not Enter” analogy. “Follow this pre-made map of life and you too can live your dreams with little effort.” The fact this could easily be captured as the slogan for the next cheesy late night informercial right alongside segments for the world’s next miracle cure for fill-in-the-blank ailment notwithstanding, it’s clear the cliché that we are our own worst enemy couldn’t be more poignant. Unfortunately, human beings are stubborn creatures with a will that could make an ox envious. I should know, as I’m one of them. For too long I’ve had goals and dreams that fell by the wayside, and while sometimes I had too much on my plate either physically and/or mentally, there was a much more common and pernicious cause for my persistent procrastinating.
Namely, I couldn’t get out of my own fucking way.
I’ve never been good at looking forward. At being proactive. At seeing that lighthouse on the horizon, unfurling the sails, and setting a course. For too long I’ve let myself be mired in the mistakes and heartache of my past, wasting the precious little time and opportunity to craft a legacy to inspire me and my life. Like any person growing up, I had lots of things I thought about becoming; teacher, astronomer, biologist, magic hurling wizard (don’t laugh, I’ve already got the beard down pat). Like all grand plans that come and go so too did these, yet one pervasive one remained. Always there, like a Stonehenge of my mind, impervious to the elements and storms of my psyche. The dream I’ve always had…
I wanted to be a writer.
But, the Resistance always won. I could call it by whatever name I wanted; imposter syndrome, fear of rejection, fear of failure, it didn’t matter. There was always an excuse not to get started. What do I even write about I would think to myself, and then proceed to plan and hold off until I had it figured out. In all creative endeavours, you don’t pick your niche and work towards it, rather it finds you once you actually begin. Even the nowadays easy task of starting a blog for me was an impossibly-high-feeling hurdle that I just kept avoiding while waiting for the inspiration to show up. Sadly, that is akin to trying to figure out where and when lightning will strike, and that creativity you’re delaying will never be unleashed.
This is when I finally throw some kindling on my perpetual state of “I really need to do this” and get my shit together. When I stop wallowing in self-doubt and smothering myself in disappointment, not only of my past, but of all the things I don’t achieve that I could have and want to. Once again, Steven Pressfield speaks almost directly to me:
Late at night have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.
No more hoping and waiting to get started.
It’s the end of my beginning.
Posted for #SeptemberScrawls, Day 1