Saturday, March 07, 2015

On the Trail to Something Spectacular

I walked over fifteen thousand steps, about six and a half miles, on a two and a half hour hike in the early hours this morning.  When I pointed this out to the people from work that I hike with, adding that my daily goal is fifteen thousand steps a day, one of them replied, "That means you don't have to take another step for the rest of the day!"  
I pointed out that if I took that attitude and stopped on the trail where we were someone would have to carry me out of the park to my car.  But I had not intention of stopping anyway.  
That's because I still hadn't found it.  
The "It" I'm referring to is "something spectacular."  I learned about it from a fortune cookie I received at lunch this week.  My boss took me and my fellow managers out for lunch at a Chinese restaurant to celebrate my 54th birthday.  
The fortune cookie read, "Something spectacular is coming your way."  
I've been on the lookout.  It hasn't come yet.  I don't know exactly what this spectacular "something" will be.  But the definition of the word spectacular, "Beautiful in a dramatic and eye-catching way," tells me that its arrival will be clear.  I'm thinking marching elephants, trumpets blowing, a spectacle of the sort a Roman Emperor might preside over.  
Nothing like it so far.  
It's why I walked those 15,000+ steps today.  Normally when we go hiking I make only one round.  We start at one end of the trail, reach the other, march back.  I go home to make breakfast at that point.  Some of the others will make a second trip, or will continue there and back on an easier trail.  
Today, when asked if I'd go another trip, I paused for a moment and said, "yes."  I was reacting to a gut feeling.  A "Why not?" sort of reaction, but one that was stronger and more specific.  Now that I went and came back, I think I know the reason I went.
The spectacular something wasn't on the first trail.  Maybe it will be on the second.  
It wasn't.  I know.  I was there.  So, I'm still waiting.  
Not just waiting though.  
I've diverting now.  To a story I might have relayed in a previous post.  I don't remember, but here it is anyway.  
It was...  Jeez.  I can't remember exactly.  It was the first time I attended Comic-Con in San Diego.  The San Diego Conventions Center was, literally, half the size it is today.  Hall H and the Ballroom 20 didn't even exist.  They were lines on some architect's design.  
I was there with a friend I'd met at work to see if we could get the comic book we'd created published by someone.  We'd split up to attend different panels.  I went to one about comic book writing.  I don't remember who was speaking.  He was popular though.  When I got to the room, it was filled to capacity.  I had to sit on an empty patch of floor near the doorway, something they won't allow you to do during the convention any more.  
It was toward the end of the panel when this important event happened.  It was during the Q&A portion, when the writer was answering questions from the audience.  Someone near the front stood up and asked his question.  Unlike the other questions, which had been about how to pitch a story, script format, practical matters like that, this one was more general, and in a way more pointed.  
"How do you know if you can make it as a writer?"  
After his question the guy from the audience went on for a bit, talking about how he thought he could "make it," that his stuff was good in his opinion, but that the rejections were hard to take and he wondered if there was some sign or signal that he could be on the look-out for to tell him that, yeah, he wasn't wasting his time.  
The writer giving the panel started and stopped for a bit.  Well, you just got to trust yourself.  You've got to not let rejection get you down.  Finish what you're writing then immediately start something else.  The writer, realizing that he wasn't addressing the heart of the guy's question stopped himself.  He slapped his hands on the table he was sitting behind and said...
"Ok.  Here.  We'll do this.  What if I told you that you had to write...  I don't know...  Ten million words.  And that all of those first ten million words would be absolute shit.  But then, at the ten millionth and first word, you'd be good enough to make it, what would you do?  Would you write those ten million words."  
Sitting on the floor by the door, I immediately said, under my breath, "Yes."  
The guy from the audience didn't like the answer.  He now hemmed and hawed and ending up saying that he didn't know.  
The writer shrugged and said, "There's your answer."  
This week I've been pondering the question of what drives me.  What drives Me?  I keep asking myself this question and I keep hearing the echo in my head as I wait for the answer.  You'd think that, after fifty-four years, five days, fourteen hours and twenty-four minutes (as of the writing of this entry), I'd have a better idea.  
It's not the same as motivation or objective, I don't think.  Maybe that's making the question more complicated than it needs to be.  Motivation is the why I do what I do.  Objective is what I'm trying to achieve.  Taking the example of someone being chased by a bear in the forest, the bear is his motivation and the tree he's hoping to climb before the bear catches him is his objective.  
What drives him, I think, are his legs.  They are the motor he's using to get away from the bear and to the tree before the bear gets him.  It's easy to see if a bear is chasing you.  It's harder if you're talking about life.  
There was a moment during our hike that touches on this, I think.  
It was the last part of our hike.  The walk back.  There is this steep incline we have to go up to get over the hill to start our descent to the parking lot.  
I noticed that one of my companions had stopped.  The same one who would tell me later that I didn't have to take another step.  
"I hate this hill."  She sighed and shook her head.  
"Your hatred of the hill won't make it go away." 
"I just can't get used to it."  
"You can't stop."  
"Yes, I can."  
"No..."  I went back to join her.  She started trudging up the hill.  I reached her side and joined her in her trudge.  "You can't.  You've got to say, 'Fuck you, Hill, if you think you're going to stop me,' and march right on up the hill's backside."  
"But I just can't get used to it."  She paused again.  She stared at mound of earth, rock, stone, shrubs and trees we were climbing.  "I think, one day, I'll be able to just...  Go up the hill and it won't bother me."  
"You do that by going up the hill."  I put my foot forward to demonstrate.  She took a step to stay with me.  I started walking and she started walking too.  "You take one step at a time.  Left, right, left right.  You keep doing that until you're there.  It's that basic."  
We joined the others who were waiting for us and started talking about other things, work, breakfast, dieting and exercise and how everyone else was doing in our company's fat-loss competition.  I kept thinking how what I told her informs a lot of what I do. 
I just do.  I do one thing, then another, I try to focus on what is right in front of me.  I watch my steps to keep from falling.  Eventually, I get somewhere.
Or maybe, get something.  Something...  Spectacular?  
Not so far.  I sometimes wonder that, by keeping my head down I might miss the spectacular something when it arrives.  I just have to hope that it's right in front of me so I'll bump into it.  
Until then, I will keep walking.  Meet it half way.  Which might mean it won't arrive until I'm 108 years old.  If that's the case, I'll be using a cane if I have to.  


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