Your father travels extensively for work. When he’s gone, you miss him, and you try to learn things and do things that you think will impress him and show him how smart and capable you are. When he comes home, you are beside yourself with excitement, and yet, while he’s affectionate to your sister, he seems to be disappointed when he sees you and rushes away before you can share all your new skills and abilities. Time goes on, and you get older, with the same thing happening every time your father comes back from his work trips.
Finally, one day, your father decides you are ready to go with him on his next voyage. This is what you’ve been waiting for since you can remember! You are happy and you rush around getting ready, studying up on what you’ll need to know for the trip, and having important talks with your father (well, really, he lectures you for hours about where you’re going and what’s required of you, but you’re still having serious work meetings). As excited as you are, in quiet moments, you feel insecure, and not a little frightened. You have always been a sickly child, and you’ve learned how many diseases there are where you’re going, how violent the ‘savages’ are, and how there won’t be anyone else with you except your father, who doesn’t have any patience with fear or caution. You’ll miss your mum and your sister, and the friend you and your sister have grown up with. They know you best and have always been there for you, no matter what. But, every time you have these thoughts, you tell yourself to “Buck up!”. After all, your father knows what he’s doing. He wouldn’t have asked you along if he didn’t think you could handle it. And you know what you’re doing too. You’ll be fine.
A couple of weeks before you and your father leave, there is a night where you meet up with your friend in the garden and she tries to kiss you, but you don’t know what to do. You’ve never thought of her that way. And you don’t need these distractions! You don’t have room to think about anything but the trip. She’s upset, and tells you that she has a feeling about you. A feeling that if you go on this trip, you won’t come back. You’ll die. You step back in shock. What is she talking about?! Obviously, she feels rejected, but it’s quite mean of her to try to scare you about the trip. You walk away in anger. That’s the last time you see her until the day before the trip. She’d fallen quite seriously ill shortly after your meeting in the garden, and you want to make sure you leave on good terms with her. When you visit, she seems like a different person. But you talk to her, tell her you are leaving and that you hope she recovers soon. She asks you to kiss her. You do. And then, in a very different way than before, she tells you you are going to die. This time, it has the pronouncement of truth. You can feel it in your bones that she’s right. You take your leave of her, but stop in the entryway of the house. You can’t get the…the knowledge out of your head. But, you’ve done all the preparations, you’ve had your heart set on this trip, you can’t back out now. And yet…no, you are going to go. You’ll be fine.
For those of you who watched the first season of this show as avidly as I did, you’ll recognize that I just described the story of a minor character that was told in flashbacks of one of the main characters (Don’t worry, no spoilers! You learn he is dead quite early on in the show, and his character is only used to flesh out the backgrounds of two of the main characters). I did use a little artistic license, as we don’t really learn the thoughts of this minor character, and also to add/subtract some details.
I thought his story was a good example of the dangers of momentum. He was primed to his fate since he was a child. The only son of a great explorer, and his father finally pays some attention to him. Regardless, the true knowledge of his death should have stopped him, but his momentum, which was made up of many things (his father’s behaviour to him, his thoughts about his father and himself, his urge to prove himself once and for all) kept him going to his ultimate doom.
And really, isn’t that what keeps us going with degrees that we realize we don’t want to complete, with jobs we dislike, with relationships that we know aren’t good for us?
“I’ve almost finished my degree! I’m not going to stop now when I’m so close. I’ll figure something out after I’m done”.
“I’ve worked my way up to this position for the past 5 years. I can’t have wasted all that time for nothing. So what if I dread going to work every day and my boss hates me? I’ll suck it up and just deal”.
“She’s fine. We know each other’s likes and dislikes. We have our routine. It’s easy. Every guy looks at other women and wishes he was with them instead. This is normal”.
We worry about what other people will think. We distract ourselves with going out, buying things, drinking, eating, and other activities. We conveniently forget the stuff that makes us uncomfortable; the things that makes us face our own truth. And when we do have cause to think about where we are in our lives, we convince ourselves that changing would be too huge and too scary and it would mean we’re going backwards while everyone else is going forwards.
So, let’s break it down:
- Big change is huge and scary. Even when you want it, it’s still risky. Are you just going to stand still forever?
Answer: No. The rewards of change are exponentially greater than the effort it takes to make the change. In other words, change is worth it.
- Are you really going backwards if you stop doing something that makes you miserable?
Answer: No. You are really ahead of everyone else.
- If you continue along the same path, will the (supposed) approval of others give meaning to your life and fill your heart with joy?
Answer: No. Living for yourself will give you the satisfaction and fulfillment you’ve been missing.
- Do your knowledge, experience, skills, and abilities get erased once you leave the degree, job, or relationship?
Answer: No. Everything you’ve learned up till now contributes to who you are and can be used as you move towards a better future.
Whatever thoughts, stories, and (other people’s) opinions make up your momentum, don’t let it pull you along. If it seems too hard to step out of the world for a moment and let all criticism and judgement fall away, try this trick: What would you tell a good friend who was in the same position? Then, take that good advice, one step at a time. We don’t have someone to foretell when we’re going to die, so shouldn’t we stop and take stock and make sure we choose the path we’re on?
On a personal note…
I do realize the irony of me writing about the dangers of momentum when I rather stalled in writing for my blog (though I have kept up with posting on my social media sites). I can offer the very valid excuse of purging, packing, and moving, and then settling in to my new place, but that just takes care of August and a bit of September. I thought about forcing myself to write, but I didn’t want to have sub par posts. Even though I did feel like I was sinking my business before it even really began. After all, how are people going to get to know me if I don’t show up here? And that was the problem. I got into the mindset that every post had to be perfectly written, perfectly helpful, and perfectly show who I am and what I think. It took an email from another business owner about procrastination that made me realize the trap I’d fallen into. Now, that I’m back, you can look forward to more content, on a more regular basis in the new year! Happy Holidays!