Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Nuts and Bolts

"We rise to great heights by a winding staircase."
-Francis Bacon

What do you dream you could do with your life? Is there something you believe yourself incapable of that you wish you could do? If only you had the time, the patience or the money, right?...Everybody has a perception of fulfilling their dreams and the methods by which they will do so. But when we get down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, it's not as glamorous as it always seemed it should be.

For example: I love music. It's one of the numerous cornerstones of my life. So I decided a while back that I wanted to learn to create it, as opposed to just reaping the benefits of other people's creativity. I was so motivated my junior year of high school that I asked for a guitar for Christmas...and got it! I expected to be banging out a song or two within the month.

I lost my motivation within the week...

I let it sit in its case for a while...a while being a year. Because I learned something as I began to strum my cords and pluck my strings: learning to play the guitar was hard! Switching between cords and playing opening riffs to the "simplest" of songs wasn't all cheese and crumpets! Stairway to Heaven didn't sound so cool when I mis-plucked every string in the intro. When a guy can't get past the first riff in one of his favorite songs, it doesn't take much to get demoralized. It's those nuts and bolts that had to be assembled that took me down a couple notches that winter. Every passion or skill set should come with a disclaimer on the box reading, "Some assembly required."

I knew I had to practice a hell of a lot more if I was going to get as good as I hoped to be. John Mayer looked lonely on that stage all by himself! And I'll have you know, practicing can be frustrating enough, let alone not seeing a bit of improvement. But the perception was that I was going to train hard, practicing all the time until I got wicked good on the guitar! By the time I was 22 I would know every song anyone could name. I'd be able to stand on a stage and jam with the best of 'em, Phish included. And I would own six or seven guitars so everybody who came over could see my passion firsthand!

The experience was a bit different than I anticipated...

That's how it is with almost anything in life, though. Everybody always has this perception of where they want their destinies to lead and who they want to become. But when you actually walk down the road of life you realize it's more a path than a road...and it's bumpy and obstacle-filled...and it's a bit more uphill than you anticipated...

Someone dreams of getting in shape, having that coveted six-pack and buns of steel. Then, after they go to the gym for a couple weeks or a month, they start taking days off - just here and there! But watching the favorite television show they TiVo'd, or going to the bars to have a few drinks with friends begins to take more priority. One six-pack becomes a bit more important than the other, and the goal is lost. They fall off the path.

The nuts and bolts...

How many times have you started a solid workout routine and found that you'd rather be doing something else other than ellipticals and countless sets? Everybody always seems to see what's in the distance before they see what's right in front of them. They see the six-pack but not the 10,000 crunches. They see the song but not the cords and the riffs that constitute it. They see the book, but they don't see the 350 pages that need to be written first...

Perception vs. Experience - we've all seen the battle. We've experienced its effects. I don't want to sound completely pessimistic or downtrodden, though. Because many times the experiences do lead to the previously perceived goal. Dreams do come true. You hear about them all the time. A teenage boy finally catches the eye of his soon-to-be high school sweetheart. Carrie Underwood wins Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMAs. A parent sees his kids go to college and get an education. They've all braved the experience and gone on to what they initially perceived their life could be. Sometimes it meets expectations and sometimes it doesn't. But before you can find out if your dream will measure up to what it could become, you've gotta brave the nuts and bolts. You have to push yourself harder than you ever have before. Because what's an accomplishment with minimal effort? Sure, from another perspective it looks like you've accomplished something noteworthy, but you know the truth. You know what went on behind closed doors. If you put "just enough" effort into it to get by, is that really fulfilling, or are you just playing the role assigned to you?

We can't just lie in wait, stagnant, tepid. We can't wait on happiness - that's not how the often-elusive emotion works. People always tell themselves they can be happy after they've climbed that hill or after they've rounded that bend. They wait for milestones in life and decide that's when they can become happy! To be cliche, the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

"Once I've graduated from college and escaped the grip of my parents, THEN I'll be happy!"

"Once we get married and cross that threshold, I'll be so happy!"

"Once I get a job I can finally relax!"

"I'll be so happy when this is over!" (a common one)

If you live like that, half of your life will be empty. You'll be a walking shell, whether you realize it or not. Do you really know what it's like to live, to truly live, walking around like that? If you ask me (which you didn't, but I'm telling you anyway), happiness is in the nuts and bolts of life. The stuff that normally may not register with your conscious mind until you realize in your old age what you missed...

The small fights a couple has in their first years of marriage.

The mis-steps you take in pursuing your dream.

Getting back up to persevere in your endeavor.

The friendships you make that you know won't last after college.

The friendships you make that will.

An encounter with a complete stranger who treats you with respect instead of mild neglect.

A quick smile thrown your way.

You don't need to have the means of bathing in money to be happy. You don't need to be a hero to be respected. It's the day-to-day living, it's the mild memories, it's the obstacles overcome, big and small - it's the nuts and bolts. These all combine with millions of other facets of "living" that make up your life. Open your mind and don't forget about what's right in front of you. Some of us are too far-sighted for our own good. You never know...what's right in front of you may be the secret to your happiness., whether that happiness lasts 60 seconds or 60 years. Don't be afraid to open your eyes a bit more to the small wonders this life can hold...you may be surprised.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

I really enjoyed this blog, Jeff. You are a talented writer and I do enjoy reading (most) of your stuff :) I am glad this posting has a better spin on it. . . very insightful. The grass ISN'T always greener on the other side, but 90% of the people I have met and know think it is. . . I'll have to share your posting with a few of them!! Keep writing and sharing.