So…I’ve done it. I set a goal, and I achieved it. I wanted to write a book before my thirtieth birthday – for some reason, that deadline felt extremely important a year ago – and I accomplished my mission. I had an idea; put the proverbial ink to the vellum; and created a tangible representation of my thoughts. Now, what? What comes next? What bucket list item is expected to follow? Do I jump on the momentum that sixteen months of blood, sweat, and tears has earned me and try again? Do I write something new? Ride this gravy train? Or try something totally different and risk alienating a dedicated fan base that has sprouted like wildflowers among a world of weeds? Do I give it up altogether – consider it an “darling” item on my personal checklist before doing “real adult” things like having children, buying a home, attending graduate school, etc.? Or do I take five seconds for myself – and fucking relish this moment?
Now, what? I feel like it’s a question we ask ourselves whenever we peer into to the future instead of living in the present. I am sitting here – quite literally – in the far right corner of a coffee shop, working through this concept. Present mindedness is not natural for me. It was never innate. It’s like a muscle that I must work to build, forcing myself to flex and contract every single day. It is so easy to become a mushy, flabby mess of complacency when you view today as merely the day before tomorrow. A few years ago I was the laziest member of the present-day clan: I allowed my mind to develop a one year, five year, ten year end game when I should have been grasping the play-by-play. We are all guilty of this: planning incessantly. Plotting relentlessly. Awaiting some “next best thing.” But then something changed: then I realized that, in the most literal sense, some never get the chance to experience thirty seconds from now, let alone the better part of a decade…and it started to feel like a cop-out. I was sheltering myself deep within my internal grand plans in an effort to hide from the thunderstorms that surrounded me. But when you seek shelter from the downpour of your own existence, you aren’t privy to the rainbows, either. I was allowing my defense mechanisms to shield me from my own emotions: and while the bad days were numbed and dulled, the best days suffered likewise.
All too often, it takes something pretty fucking drastic to change your worldview. While we are chipped and chiseled slowly over time – one day a different version of our former selves – certain life events crack the change right into you. Sometimes it’s a sharp stab to your heart. Others, a blunt force blow to the gut. Either way, you take on this change in one of two ways: either it will destroy you, or it will reshape you. I like to think of life’s darkest days as renovating my former self: I am not the same, but in so many ways, I’m better for it. And thanks to those stabs and jabs, kicks and slaps, sucker punches right to the face: I have learned to stop counting down to what’s next, and immerse myself in what’s happening.
Yesterday evening, I celebrated the release of my first book with over one hundred of my closest friends and family members. I distinctly recall standing in the corner of a packed microbrewery, greeted by a literal line of loved ones elbow-to-elbow for a signed copy of my silly little book. No, it’s not War and Peace. No, it won’t win a Pulitzer Prize. And no, it probably won’t reach the hands of most people once the initial buzz wears off: after all, our society is one giant social media meme after the next. But I remember looking out amongst the crowd – and I felt my heart begin to race. I could feel the beads of sweat collect beneath my silk and feather cocktail dress. I genuinely felt myself begin to panic: what the hell was I doing? Why were all of these people here – for me? I was perched next to a poster of my book cover – a cover that had my own face plastered on it – and I felt totally fucking ridiculous. Had I lost sight of what really mattered? Was I really hosting a book signing with cocktails and cupcakes and party props – who the hell did I think I was? And then I made eye contact with one of my dearest friends: the look on her face was pure telepathy. She told me to take a step back and breathe. She told me, in just one glance, to back the fuck up and soak it all in. She encouraged me, without saying a word, to embrace the whirlwind and exist in the very moment. Somehow, this was my reality. Somehow, this meant something. And somehow, my list of tomorrows finally became a today.
So…now, what? I don’t know. In fact, I don’t have a goddamn clue. But I’ll roll with the punches. I’ll live with the bruises. I’ll take the daily beating – the one that requires me to immerse myself in the very worst moments of my existence – if it means that I can stand in the corner of a buzzing, beautiful room in awe of the best days of my life. I am doing my best to stop fixating on the “what” and focusing on the “now:” if it’s all you’ve got as a guarantee, you might as well go searching for rainbows.