Please Kill Me,
Well, as the sun dawns on yet another Monday, I can’t help but say that I feel different. The fact that I’m officially 30 (as of yesterday) notwithstanding, I’ve got to say that it feels like a good one. If that’s not a big enough deal for you, then simply replace the occasion with “It’s the first Monday of a new month!” (you cold, heartless bastards #It’sMyParty #I’llCryifIWantTo). I won’t go so far as to imply some momentous change. Rather, I like to take my annual-aging in stride and utilize the day to reflect and reposition.
Despite my general numbness to incremental success, I have to acknowledge that the last year of my life has seen some pretty significant (if relatively predictable change). 20 – 29 saw the birth, development, and continuation of my career in more ways than I could have ever imagined or hoped for.
After a two-year hiatus, I released my third anthology. After 3-years in California, I’ve all but lost my N.Y. accent. My career as a copywriter evolved from “impossible” to “somewhat uncertain” to “DAMN… They’re still paying me” (#ThoseFools #I’mALuckyBastard). I’ve read more. Experienced more. Doubted less. Gained loyal followers. And this is the first birthday (since this all *officially* started 6 years ago) where my bank account is actually in the black. For the most part, things seem intent on thrusting fruitfully ahead.
With that in mind, I’d be lying to say that my life has suddenly been absolved of necessary concern. As I sit here, dawdling about beside a growing library, in a moderate comfort that I never expected, I’m forced to look ahead. What’s next for the unexpected path? What new heights and insights should I aim for? What further unachievable goals will I chase bare-footed in a caffeinated rage? These thoughts, among many others, are a source of great anxiety, cautious optimism, and (for me) unparalleled appreciation.
Rather than waterboard you in aspirational ideas or impossible hopes, I thought that it might be cool to share some of the things I’ve learned on this little existential adventure of mine. Maybe it’ll help you. Maybe it won’t. Maybe the following is just a list for me. (Reflection. Remember? #StillMyParty).
1. Hope is Not Action. Action is Not Hope.
There’s a subtle balance that I’ve become aware of through all of this. In spite of my persistent desire to achieve a “Mastery of the Craft,” there are simply days where the magic feels lost, yet I force myself forward. Similarly, there are days of complete and utter wondrous whimsy—these days often see a noticeable depreciation of action. I had to come to an understanding that in order to feel any sense of true satisfaction, it’s necessary to seek a balance of both. Quite simply, hope means nothing if it’s not acted upon. Actions mean nothing if there’s no hope for the future. It’s not at all easy. But, like anything else, practice makes perfect. I still struggle with this balance. However, every victory begins with a struggle. We must master both hope AND action to counteract the pitfalls of either.
2. There is No “Stop.” Only the Length of Your “Pause.”
There’s a common equivocation among creatives that conflates “rest” with “failure.” Like many of you, I’ve often had to take unforeseen time for relaxation—if only to better target my goals and center myself. Also, like many of you, I found that this time of reprieve was usually haunted by my own worst fear of never getting back to the keyboard. I imagine anyone who has swashbuckled in the freelance-world understands the torturous need to “GO! GO! GO!”
However, as we evolve along this path and find ourselves in greater positions of influence, it becomes important to align with our needs beyond the screen. We need friends. We need mindless entertainment. We need drunken encounters with the petri-dish of social life (maybe not drunken). We need love. Essentially, we must live life to best appreciate and understand its meaningfulness. Oftentimes, that means we must break from the monotony of our work routine. We must nourish our lives. EVERY aspect of it. Forgive yourself for the time away and trust that you’ll return—better, happier, stronger.
3. They’re Watching, Even if You Don’t See Them.
Yet another fear that I’m sure we shared was finding and maintaining an audience. Personally, I remember when I first started this blog—unsure of where it would go. At that time, as a new writer (freshly bathed in post-college ennui), this whole thing seemed impossible. Where would I find my readers? How would I attract them? How do I keep them? After months of staring at single-digit views and fighting for followers, I let go of targeting my ideal audience. I had to understand that the right material would attract the right eyes. It was (and is) rarely about getting any specific group in my crosshairs.
What was more important was deciding who I wanted to be and trusting that the audience would gravitate to that. After a while (years, really) and a bit of luck, I started paying attention to who was paying attention. It was never who I expected and every post attracts who’s meant to see it. Beyond being myself, the rest is up to them. My audience is an expansive group of various eyes and sensibilities. I had to learn to trust they were there, even if they didn’t always smash the “Like” or “Follow” button.
4. There is No FAIL.
Failure isn’t the inability to achieve one’s goals. Rather, true failure is the forfeiting of effort in response to falling short. You’ll be happy to know that it’s also impermanent. No, not everything will be your magnum opus. No, not everything will go viral. No, not every dream-piece will connect how you’d like it to. Remember that success isn’t your responsibility, it’s merely a result of your perspective. Your only true responsibility is to your work and making it the best you can in the respective moment. I know. I know. Both vague and terrifying. Still true.
5. Today is Neither Yesterday nor Tomorrow.
Try not to bind yourself to extinct or fictional realities. You’re not a prisoner (nor victor) of times gone or yet to arrive. We’re consistent contestants, vying to continuously raise the bar. Never damn yourself to past failure. I’d also caution against burdening yourself with what’s to come. Our only true state is the NOW. The NOW is a gift. That’s why they call it the present. Stay present at all costs.
6. Consider the Race. Not the Finish-line.
It should be said that life is a marathon. A triathlon, really, of Olympic proportions. No matter where you find yourself, understand that there’s always another lap to run, another wall to climb, another Kardashian’s-fame to befuddle you. It’s better to run as best we can, than to concern ourselves with the end. What’s that old saying? “It’s about the journey, not the destination.”
7. Say Something, Even if it Hurts.
Despite the plethora of targeted material that inundates the internet, I’ve found that I am rarely more satisfied than when writing something personal. Sometimes, it’s silly. Sometimes, it’s sad. Sometimes, it’s both. The point is, so long as I’m writing something that’s important to me, the words are always there and never short of meaning (in one way or another). Eschew the elongated advertisement-based personality and discover yourself through a constant and unapologetic expression of self. Maybe they’ll like it. Maybe they won’t. What stands above those opinions are your own. Sooner or later, you’ll find that being yourself is not detrimental. It simply enriches what’s come before and what will follow. Again, the right eyes are watching. They will appreciate it more than you know. Best to make those words count for something.
8. We ARE the Motivation We Seek.
There’s no mystical talisman. No “Ah, Ha!” advice. No secret door (through which Ironman is still alive and holding all of life’s solutions on a gauntlet). #SpoilerAlert, there is no magic beyond what we do every day. Those moments where you feel like you can’t, but do. Those moments where you find the right word. Those moments where you lose hope, then something AMAZING happens. Those moments, where you’re suddenly years down the line and striving for more, better, sexier. THAT’s “magic.” We are magic. Magic IS motivation. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
9. Give MORE. Expect LESS.
Life isn’t about the things we take. It’s about the quality of what we contribute and the intensity through which we nurture ourselves and others. If you ever find yourself feeling down or ungrateful, try hopping onto the ol’ web and interacting with others—who may not be as far along as you. Don’t worry so much about “selling,” or “promoting.” Instead, be the guide you wish you had. About 98% of the time, the perspective you gain will be worth more than any sale or sense of achievement. That goes doubly for those whom you encourage and inspire. Heroes are more than the just feats they achieve for themselves. Their legacy is the sum total of lives they’ve positively impacted. Be it. Live it. Give it back.
10. Keep Pushing
Literally, because of EVERYTHING else that I just said. Your dreams are worth the effort. All of them are.
And that’s my old man spiel. Hopefully, I’m still around 10 years from now, to reflect yet again and complain about my worsening arthritis.
As a matter of fact, I just decided that I will be.
May the Fourth Be With You,
Welcome to the depths of chaos. After exploring themes of humanity and destruction in the previous two installments, Antwan Crump furthers the “A Collection of Things” series with six thrilling new tales that redefine life, death, desire, and consequence. Do we dare to face the darkness or will it devour us before we can question its purpose?