Eyes on your lane
I have this terrible habit of reaching for my phone whenever I hit a rut in the writing process.
Whenever I’m racking my brain for the right words or can’t figure out how to weave my story together, I instinctively turn to Instagram for inspiration within the masses of selfies and motivational quotes. To counter this habit, someone recommended a productivity app that plants a digital tree when I can resist touching my phone for a specific period of time. So far, no trees have been planted.
The best thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world. The worst thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world.
Before I started writing in this space, I would enjoy trawling through the feeds of other writers and swoon over the way they could capture my feelings with their words. Reading their stories was like the first time I wore glasses. When I placed those plastic rimmed frames on my face, all the blobs and blurred lines in the distance sharpened into focus and I could see the all little details I never realised I was missing. Like how the colourful shapes in the storefront were actually teddy bears, and how the letter ‘a’ on the sign was actually a ‘d.’Their words soothed an ache within me that I never knew how to explain or how to fix, like how a toddler might point to his stomach and cry.
Now that I’m aspiring to do the same, I can’t help but feel twinges of envy after reading their beautifully crafted sentences and how their words sparked magic. I longed to be at the level where everyone I admired was.I wanted their perfect prose, their platform and people that support my writing – and I wanted it yesterday. I pretend it’s not there, but left unchecked, the spoonful of self-doubt along with a pinch of self-loathing soon becomes hard to swallow.
Underlying all of this is the desire to just hurry up and be ‘there’ already. Humble beginnings and baby steps are like poison ivy to those of us with big visions on our hearts. We itch and scratch and whine in frustration at the reminder that although we’re not where we want to be -other people are. Suddenly, bitterness and distrust can’t help but creep in when you see someone else living out your vision.
It hit 31-degree’s last week.
It lasted two days and then the thunderstorms began.
While the sun was still out, my friend and I headed to the beach to make the most of the blue sky and our free time. As she got into the car,she began to complain about the fact that her packages hadn’t arrived.
“Aus Post told me it was going to get here by midday, and it’s still not here,” she grumbled. “Now I have to go all the way down to the post office to pick it up since I won’t be here to sign for it. This is so annoying!”
As dramatic as she sounded in the moment, I knew that I harboured the same frustration and discontentment. Although I claim to be competitive, the waiting game is one I would forfeit if it meant that I received my prize instantly.
In a world where express shipping is the default option and food arrives straight to your doorstep, we are conditioned to crave instant gratification. I know I’ve been easily tempted by the siren call of products that claim to give me a flatter stomach in five days and clear skin by two. I’ve stalked the feeds of the people I admire and assumed that so long as I perform X, Y and Z, I should be exactly where they are by next week.
I think many of us wish we could just order up our dream like an online delivery. We’d get a text when our dream has been dispatched from the warehouse and we could track its journey by watching the icon move along the timeline. We’d squeal in anticipation when we finally get an estimated time of delivery, and we’d run to the door as soon as we heard the postman pull up.
I have a running list of suggestions to tell God on the way Life should work.
But for now, He hasn’t implemented any. We have no way of tracking how long we have to go or how long it’ll take till we attain our goal. The air of uncertainty only fuels our anxious minds, so when things inevitably hit a road block, we lose momentum and get dejected about the delay.
We look at our journey and say, ‘Hey. You’re taking way longer than I expected. I asked for my dream to be delivered Amazon Prime style to my doorstep, but instead you’ve decided to get held up at the post office. I’d like my refund now.’
The hardest lesson for me to swallow is that the reason I’m ‘here’ and not ‘there’ is simply because I’m not ready yet.
There are skills that have yet to be developed, basics I still need to master, and experiences I have to overcome that will ultimately keep me sustained in the long run. Above all is a God who keeps me in one spot to ensure that I learn to walk before I even think about running.
As desirable as an online delivery of our dream is, we forget that there’s beauty in the process and a better payoff in the waiting. None of the people I admire are instant successes. When I was scrolling on social media and consuming the posts of the writers I adored,I was looking at the culmination of a decade’s worth of work. A decade of sitting at the table with their butt in the chair, slamming their fingers on the keyboard until they produced stories that flowed.
But I know that as much as the waiting hurts, there’s an even bigger heartache when you watch someone else get their package first. My phone is full of the text messages, emails and phone calls about the heavy hearts and sink in our stomach my friends and I feel when we hear someone else got that job offer, the relationship status or the prestigious award.
The questions start to fire off in our brains:
Are there good things ahead for me?
Is there a purpose for me here?
Is everything that I’ve been working towards going to be worth it?
My honest answer is that you are special. You do matter. And the thing you’re working for will pay off for you in the end. There’s so much influence and impact running through your veins that everything you touch is going to produce so much good in the world.
But I know this is real hard to believe when we’re consumed by the mentality that we’re in this Ultimate Race. The race where there’s only one prize for all seven billion of us, and we have to strap on our weapons and battle each other Hunger Games Style until we win. We end up tearing our eyes away from our goals and spend all our energy twisting and turning our necks to see who’s gaining momentum on us and wondering why someone else is faster, better or smarter than we are.
Perhaps I’m being too dramatic. All I know is that I can’t be the only one whose heart breaks a little when I see all the ways people are racing past and getting their prize while I’ve barely moved an inch.
What I will say is that time gets wasted when we worry about who’s ahead of us. Time gets wasted when we are constantly turning our heads to see who our competition is or analysing all the ways why they have what we want.
We could either watch other people excel and neglect our own craft. Or we could focus on our own process and fight to believe the truth that while it might be their turn to reap the rewards now, one day it’ll be ours.
Earlier this year, someone I looked up to purely because of the fact she seemed to have her future figured out, sent me a flurry of messages to vent about how she was doing everything ‘right’ but only getting minimal returns. Other people were coming up from behind and getting the opportunities she’d worked for, and anxiety was whispering that maybe this means she wasn’t cut out for her dream.
For the hearts that wonder why they aren’t ‘there’ yet or discouraged by watching other people ‘ahead,’ this is for you:
“Take yourself out of the race,” I texted back. “You’re in a league of your own.”
Don’t look side to side for your inspiration. Just look straight ahead because that’s where you’re going.