Yesterday I watched Neil Gaiman’s commencement address to the University of the Arts grads in Philadelphia. Twice. I may watch it again this evening. So much of it spoke to me and my own goals and how I am or am not pursuing them to the extent that I’d like to. And I’ve been thinking about why that might be.
One of the things Gaiman said in the speech was that when he was experiencing success with his comic “Sandman”, Stephen King told him to enjoy it. And he didn’t. He didn’t enjoy that ride, and instead spent time worrying about what would come next.
I’m not experiencing the kind of professional success to which Gaiman was referring, but things in my life are pretty good – and yet for the last week I’ve not been enjoying the ride. Maybe a week doesn’t sound like much – we all have our down times – but for me, seven days of being out of sorts is a long time. Usually I watch a movie or read a book and my spirits are restored.
This past week, though, I’ve floundered. I’ve been missing having my best friends nearby; the one’s with whom discussions of how our children are learning or what they are doing or who they are playing with is an afterthought. Instead, we discuss books and movies at length, or trips we’d like to take or our own personal goals – or what happened on last week’s episode of “Castle”.
I have noticed of late that the people with whom I have the most fun are not in my demographic. They tend to be 15-25 years younger than me. (Not counting the above-mentioned friends, who are rare treasures of fun and insight.) This is slightly disturbing, because how often do I get the opportunity to hang out with said people? I used to, when my kids took classes at the nearby “Kids Club”. I was on such good terms with some of the coaches there (all of whom were in their early 20′s) that many of the other parents thought I was weird. Of course, they already thought I was weird because I didn’t have a nanny and was not shipping my kids off to school full time as soon as they turned 3. Being friends with the coaches was just one more weird thing. Now my kids are too old for the Kids Club and my contact with people who are not fully focused on their interior family dramas has diminished dramatically.
This week, inspirational quotes on Facebook annoy me. Also annoying? People who don’t respond to emails in which I’ve asked a specific question. Especially when that question was not “Hey, how’s it going?”, but an actual inquiry about a time sensitive subject.
So when I heard Neil Gaiman talk about “enjoying the ride” I thought a lot about why I am not – at least at this moment in time. It’s easy to look around and say “it’s everybody else” but of course that’s not true. I write a lot about learning so people talk to me about it. How are they to know that what I really want to talk about is the amazing-ness of anything Joss Whedon touches? How can they appreciate the incredible serendipity of two of my most avid fellow readers who live half a world apart reading the same book at the same time and telling me about it within two days of each other?
My conclusion? Not sure that I have one that will make me feel suddenly lighter – make me enjoy the ride. I do know that I need to re-evaluate my goals and perhaps adjust my approach. Neil Gaiman says he saw his goal – to be a published author and support himself with his work – as a mountain, and that whatever he did he did because it brought him closer to that mountain. And that sometimes he said no to things because even though they were tempting, they were tantamount to walking away from the mountain.
So maybe the key for me is to better define my mountain and then walk toward it without distraction. Will that make up for the lack of pop culture chat? Will it replace the feeling of having no one in my life but Joshua who really ‘gets me’? (and take away the full burden of that distinction from him?)
I don’t know. All I know is that enjoying the ride is key. Because we only get one.