Today is my birthday, and I’m looking forward to a weekend of visitors–old friends I haven’t seen in a long time. And if that wasn’t enough happiness for one day, our friends gave birth to their beautiful son this morning. I can barely stay in my seat, I’m so excited to meet him.
And yet, for me, birthdays are often tinged with a little bit of apprehension and regret. I’m a year older, but am I any closer to what I want? As I get older I feel less sure of what I want and more concerned about what needs to get done, what I have to be responsible for. More and more I feel that I have to wait for everything to be just right before I can take the next step, whatever that may be.
This morning I came across Leslie’s post about Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Leslie quoted a particularly poignant passage from the speech, and I’m going to do the same, because it struck me as such a true and perfect reminder that as long as we keep in mind an idea of what our lives should be, it is ok if we feel stuck or diverted along the way. We’re still making progress.
…If you have an idea of what you want to make, what you were put here to do, then just go and do that.
And that’s much harder than it sounds and, sometimes in the end, so much easier than you might imagine…
Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.