I had it all planned out.
OK, not everything, but I knew where I was heading and I had a vague idea of how I was going to get there. There was no Plan B as such, because there wasn’t a solid Plan A. I was just going to hustle and work and grind and work and graft and work and work and work until I reached my Goal. Because that’s what I did: I got what I wanted because I was a do-er that got things done.
I was so confident in my goal that I shared it freely with all the bright-eyed enthusiasm a creative graduate could muster, and as I shared, I got the feedback that you would expect. I got the sceptical looks that betrayed more than the measured verbal responses let on, and I also got the flat out, “But is that really realistic??” But I’m the child of a Yoruba mother – stubbornness and pride are tightly woven in my DNA – and this only hardened my resolve. Now I wasn’t just doing this for myself, but I was doing it to Prove Them All Wrong.
But here’s the thing that 18 years of academic jumping-through-hoops, including-the-right-word-in-the-right-answer, regurgitating-teacher’s-commentary-word-for-word excellence didn’t teach me: the more you try, the more you fail. The more you actually do, the more you realise that what you thought is not what is. And as stubborn as I am, and as well-trained at tick-boxing I had learned to be, I can only hop through those hoops as long as I’m enjoying it. I am stubbornly committed to avoiding misery if I can help it.
Combine this with the growing disillusionment of a quarter-life crisis, and the path got less linear, more abstract and the Bright Shining Future Goal got further and further away. Did I even want what I was once so sure of wanting? If not that, then what? How did I know what to aim for? I’m a goal-driven person, I need something to orientate me; I need a focus and a final destination to constantly be measuring myself up against.
But keep this up for long enough and you’ll realise the fallacy. Watch your heroes for long enough and you’ll see that their #LifeGoals are not all they’re cracked up to be. The goal posts keep moving, the mirage of success on the horizon keeps disappearing and re-emerging, even more distorted than it was before. You make it to the end of the rainbow and realise that the pot of gold is half full – if it’s even gold in the first place.
When I can finally afford to buy my dream car (a white Land Rover Evoque with black trim and the fancy cats-eye headlights, please and thanks) there will be a newer model, a more desirable car, that once again is just beyond my reach. I’ve listened to enough podcasts to know that a man worth $9 billion will still be bitching to the guy next to him about “that goddamn Larry Page” who is worth $50 billion while he is not.
The problem is that if you’re blessed enough to reach your goal, you don’t get to hit pause and bask in your glory – at least not for very long. People surpass you, £50 issues turn into £50,000 issues, mo’ money, mo’ problems and life’s BS continues. We think success will give us rest when it won’t. The only true rest we will get is when we’re dead. Kind of…
Now any true Christian worth their weight in salt (and light), who knows their Alpha from their Omega (hint: Same Person), is low-key obsessed with death. We talk about dying to self; we sing songs about what comes after our mortal demise; the day our Saviour died is called ‘Good Friday’; an instrument of execution and torture is the worldwide symbol of our faith; each week millions of us come together to eat the bread and wine (or grape juice) that symbolises the slain body of our Lord. OK, we’re high-key obsessed with death. We are taught that the death of our mortal bodies is our true destination. Everything that comes before that is just a pit stop on a journey with a certain end.
So what to make of this journey?
It’s not that what occurs on this treacherous path is insignificant, but it all needs to be weighed appropriately against the Final Destination. And the perpetual feeling of never having made “it” is not the constant gnaw of failure and inadequacy, but the quiet reminder that “it” is not here.
But what is here is the journey. And for now, the journey is home.