As of today, a printed book with my name on its cover is on its way to me. Gather ‘round Susan, Charles, Orhan and Jean, for I have joined your ranks! Note to self, disbelieving friends and family, I have now accomplished one of my personal goals and am one step closer to thinking of myself as a writer. It is time to pop open the champagne.
Instead, I feel embarrassed.
This moment hasn’t happened the way I had envisaged. The book’s completion is four years later than scheduled in my Life Plan. The material isn’t a grand novel. No lauded literary critics are clearing spaces on their desks to digest my masterpiece for their rave reviews. TLS hasn’t requested an interview.
It’s just a first draft of my first volume of poems, scheduled to arrive in the post early next month. I am to double-check for typos and confirm layout. Then it will be time to consider the marketing campaign and how this first volume will relate to my next project or collection. How flat and mundane this feels. Plus I still have rent to pay and groceries to buy, neither of which this book seems to be covering right at this moment in time.
There is a running motif I keep encountering: when we wish for things to happen and move towards making them come true, they often do, but with some significant variations on our specifics. Those with more life experience will nod their heads in recognition.
For the last six years, I have been working with a list of goals I affectionately call “The Eight.” I have tried throwing them away, revising them, breaking them down into bite-size, achievable chunks, assessing the ‘corner-stones’ of each dream/goal so as to reach towards the essence. Yet, they’ve stuck around, like a tentacled shadow. “The Eight” has become my personal octopus of hope and demonic possession. Down strange paths we have travelled. Late at night it causes me to rail at my own problem-generating stubbornness:
Who really cares whether you live in a wooden house with a deck on a lake?
Who will know if you never tango in Buenos Aires or don’t get around to visiting Shanghai or Morocco or New York?
Why do you need to pursue doctoral studies anyway? Surely, you don’t need a qualification like that to follow an enriching, satisfying vocation. Just knuckle down with whatever job.
What does it matter if you don’t share part of this life’s journey with one, exclusive companion and a bundle of children?
Well, you could go on and buy that handmade viola and get cracking with Grade 8 exam prep. No excuse there.
You want beautiful clothes? Start by not shrinking your favourite green top in the wash.
Today’s good news is that out there in the world, there is a book going to print with my name on it. The other good news is that my like-minded friends, family and community who care are popping champagne at this achievement. There, please note, are two goals accomplished. Now, what about that tango trip to Buenos Aires?
With thanks to The Cat’s Meat Shop for the wonderful Punch cartoon from 1873.
Follow @BeadedQuill on Twitter for updates on “Shining in Brightness,” BQ’s first volume of poetry, and her journey with the remaining six goals of “The Eight.”