Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Little Things

"outfield" by Harry Koopman / CC BY 2.0
People are always looking for SUCCESS.

We want our names in the paper, on a flashing marquee.

We crave HAPPINESS.

There are hundreds of books lining the shelves of bookstores dedicated to making you "this much" happier, guiding you through a series or steps or exercises fucking guaranteed to make your life better- if you just do this one thing, stop doing that other thing, let go of that fear.

We want our lives to be WORTH SOMETHING, filled with MEANING. We want to LEAVE A MARK.

We're greedy creatures.

And hey, why not? 

I'm all about big dreams. I will encourage you to follow the crazy ideas and insane desires that touch your heart until I can't push another word past my lips. Reach for all the things you want and work your ass off to get there. Don't let yourself slack off. Don't settle with your life if you are not where you want to be. Push through every little obstacle with the knowledge that the bloodied hands you earn from scrabbling over mountains and climbing steep cliffs will scab over and grow calloused in time, giving you more strength and proving that you can make it.

One day you'll be there, at the top of whatever great peak you were climbing, fingers wrapped around clouds, and you'll be able to say I did it. That will be an amazing day. It's going to happen. Keep working for it.

BUT.

What about all the steps you took to get there?

"Sun" by Bruno Caimi / CC BY 2.0
People tend to cling to this idea of "I'll be happy when…" "I'll be successful when…" and then beat themselves up over not being there yet every single day. Even when they get to the point they want to reach, many people will only celebrate for a moment before moving on to the next big thing. It's a sort of perfectionism.

When we do this, we're forgetting something.

There are a million little things you achieve on your way to reaching your goals. Small things that lead to bigger dreams and small things that simply make you happy. So often we gloss over these tiny details and the less grandiose aspects of our life, but really, we should be welcoming them as much as we welcome the grand finale. Let's work on appreciating all the little things in our life as we make process towards the fireworks and applause we so crave.

I was inspired by Gala Darling a while ago to start making gratitude lists, and now I just keep a list on my phone that says "Things I Love" and spend a few minutes every day adding 5 things to it. This is a super easy way to remind yourself that every day there are things to be happy about and grateful for. A few recent items have been:

Winding down with a glass of red wine after several days of hard work.
Deep conversations about family and youth with my mom.
Laying in bed cruising through a stack of library books.
Booking a spot at an artist hostel in Marrakech this summer for a few days (!!!).
Some guy stopping me on the street to ask me if my hair color was natural, then calling it "gorgeous".
Clear skies and the smell of summer (cut grass and tartan track).
Stretching after a good workout.
Croissants and coffee on the waterfront with my boyfriend.
Watching these two kids that snuck into a store window dance around and wave at passerby.
A customer at work saying, "I'm a male stripper" & paying entirely in ones (kinda gross but hilarious).

You get the idea.

Not everything on that list is helping me progress towards my goals. Not every one of those little things in my life is something to label SUCCESS or COMPLETED.

But it is so, so important to notice all these little glories in our days. It's such a cliche to say that the journey is as, if not more, important as the destination, but it's so incredibly true. 

Life isn't the finish line. It's not the reward. It's the progress and the lessons, the failures and missteps that help you grow as a person. 

It's the millions of fragments that make up every section of every day. You can choose to ignore these and keep striving for that one goal, blinders on and running down anything that stands in your way until you reach your dreams. But then, when you reach your dreams, where will you be? Will you truly be happy, or will you wish you had spent more time appreciating the process?

Look around you. I challenge you to set your big dreams and grand desires to the side for a moment. Don't let go, for goodness' sake, but acknowledge the fact that everything wonderful in your life doesn't have to be perfect. The mere fact of your existence and your ability to dissever and explore your immediate surroundings, with little more effort than simply opening your eyes, your mind, is extraordinary. 

Don't give up on the things you want most. Know that struggle is part of the process. 

But don't let the world pass you by. The process can be, and often simply is, beautiful. 

You just have to notice the little things.


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