Eating the Elephant

This post originally appeared on my previous blog, southernontariogothic.wordpress.com

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My dad taught me how to ski. I was terrified of the mountains. I was petrified of falling down and hurting myself. As I shook with terror and shrieked that I was going to take my skis off and walk the rest of the way down, he’d ask me the same question: how do you eat an elephant? And eventually I learned to answer back: one bite at a time. Getting down the hill wasn’t any different. Focus on getting part of the way, instead staring down to the bottom and feeling like you’ll never make it.

Elizabeth from Delightfully Tacky, in light of her own a-ha moment, posed a great question to her readers last Thursday: what’s keeping you from achieving you dreams? I’ve been busy, so I didn’t see it till now, but the question spoke so perfectly to where I am in this part of my life that I thought it would be really valuable — not to mention therapeutic — to answer her. Better late than never, right? That’s how I was raised, anyway.

You have to have a dream before you can realize it, right? Here’s my big confession: I’m not sure what my dream is. I have lots of little dreams. There are lots of small triumphs that I’m secretly longing for. I’d love to lose ten pounds, run a sub-two hour half-marathon, build a pizza oven, blog regularly, actually learn how to use my camera. I want to have a vegetable garden and own a dog. I’d call all those things dreams. But in terms of having a long term, castle in the sky that I could shape my life around? For the last few years, I’ve come up blank every time someone’s asked.

When I was little I wanted to be a writer. Once I got to high school, I wanted to be a university professor. I wanted to teach Shakespearean literature. But then I got to my undergraduate degree and the grades needed for that kind of career didn’t seem worth the amount of effort. Other things took priority: my friends, my family, getting involved in my community. And I was happy, and I think I can say (without sounding too vain) that I thrived. I felt happy and valued. I still loved school, but I didn’t want to be a professor anymore.

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I don’t want to measure my success on my material worth. I want to measure my life based on my relationships, my health, my ability to feel happy. Since your career is what you spend so much time of your life doing, I want my career to be something I believe. I want it to be something I find rewarding.

Actually wanting something is really scary. Actually trying hard to get it is even scarier.

Looking back, it’s been rare that I’ve fought hard for anything I really wanted. Maybe because there hasn’t ever been that much I’ve felt I needed — or rather, much that I felt I didn’t already have. I’ve always been content with good enough. I’ve always been too scared, and too complacent, to make what I really want happen for me. I feel crippled by my fear. I’m terrified of failing. I’m terrified to actually work for anything that I want. It’s so much easier to say that I just don’t know and accept what every comes along.

It’s easy to say that baby steps are the only way to get anywhere. It’s a lot harder to put it into practice. But just because I don’t know what my big dream is doesn’t mean I have to ignore the small ones. Thinking in absolutes is dangerous. Just because I don’t have everything figured out doesn’t mean I can’t have anything figured out.

I don’t know what I want long term. But I know some short term things that I want. I think it’s time to eat that elephant. It’s time to take a deep breathe and get down that big, scary mountain. It’s time to trust myself enough to know that I’ll get there in one piece.

If you’ve got this far, thank you for reading. Elizabeth, thank you for the prompt. It came at just the right time. I linked back to her original post at the beginning, but here’s a link again: http://www.delightfully-tacky.com/2014/07/whats-keeping-you-from-achieving-your-dream.html.  Other bloggers have linked up their posts, so go back and click around.

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