Essays & Thoughts, On Jobs & Careers, On Motivation

Wet Paint

I just learned that C.S. Lewis did not write nor say,

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.

which is fine by me. I’ll just have to quote it anonymously now for it still rings true whosever mouth it originally belongs to.

Anyway, right- ‘…day by day nothing changes.’ I am not a methodical person. My habits are not constricting, but I am also not a great world traveler. I don’t go on journeys, adventures, or quests (outside of books). I don’t solve mysteries (again, outside of books). I don’t advise rulers (outside of my mind). There is nothing in my life that would serve as an obvious signal of change. No prophecies. No epiphanies. No coincidences. Just me, waking up from my slumber in the room I initially began my evening. And yet, ‘when [I] look back, everything is different.’

It just is.

Like caring for my succulents. I don’t literally watch them grow. I haven’t kept track of how much they’ve grown over the months. Doing so, I think, would be like watching paint dry**: not that it’s boring (although it is) but I’m not supposed to watch paint dry. I’m supposed to post up a ‘WET PAINT’ sign and get busy doing the next thing.

The ‘WET PAINT’ sign serves not just as a reminder not to lean against the wall, but also that I already painted this wall. I did do something. I have worked. I have progressed. I am moving forward, but now I have to turn around, or at least, keep turning around. It’s like I’m turning around an SUV in a narrow alley–I could’ve back up, but I’m already seventy three turns into this ninety point turn I’m committed.

It was probably at the thirtieth turn I happened to remember something C. S. Lewis did actually write (I swear, it’s underlined in my copy of his book)

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

Okay, fine, I should’ve reversed the car instead but that’s only because I was expecting a sign. I was expecting prophecies, epiphanies, or coincidences. I was so focused on the paint drying that I never bothered to check the side of the can for information telling me how long it would take for the paint to dry. (Additionally, I wanted my succulents to grow so quickly, I overwatered one of them and it died.) Now stuck in this u-turn, I realize that prophecies, epiphanies, or coincidences could be helpful but the entire point of those things is that they are rare and therefore special. Rare and special things only take place when I’m not looking.

Staring at the goal, at the finish line, for too long I’ll complain that it’s too far instead of wondering why my feet have not taken the first step.

So I’ll keep turning around! I’ll keep painting walls and planting gardens. I’ll keep dreaming while I’m sleeping. Then while I’m waiting (and working) for the results, I’ll keep practicing and honing my skills. In this way, I will prove to myself that my ‘impossible’ goals are actually thinkable, workable, possible goals.


**For the record, I did consider measuring how much they’d grow over time because I do think that would be interesting but that’s besides the point.

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