Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A different yardstick

My yardstick is too long.

I know what you're thinking.  "Yardsticks are a yard long, Nelly.  That's why they call them yardsticks."  And it is very true that most of our modern measurement devices are pretty close to the same length, unlike the time when they built that giant Swedish ship and every builder had his own unique ruler and that's part of the reason it sank before it left the harbor.

But I'm talking about a metaphorical yardstick.  The preferred linear measuring device of your mind's eye (although my mind's eye is a total metric snob.  It just makes more sense!).

That one dude wrote back, and gave me this link right here.  If you want to read it now, I won't mind.  But here's a highlight that particularly stood out to me:
"Doing something prestigious does not equal being awesome. In other words, awesome does not look the same close-up as it does from far away."
I'm working on my double major in physics and engineering.  In my head, this always teams up with the tidbit that I should have graduated four years ago already (young and foolish, bad economy, bad decisions, blargity blarg long story that I might tell you sometime if you buy me a couple drinks) but when I tell this to people, they are usually impressed.   Sometimes I feel a little like Eddie Izzard here at 0:36.  But most of the time, it feels like even though it's something I enjoy doing very much and am planning to have a real-life grown-up career in, there are so many smaller awesome things I would really, really like to be doing, or even just generally fun things that make a good life - that I put to the side because I'm more focused on the long-term goal.  Case in point: I would really love to do some travelling now that I'm a little more footloose and fancy-free than I have been in a while.  To me, the kind of person who travels a lot already has a lot of awesomeness points in their favor, and that's the sort of person I want to be.  But school and work coincide to dictate my schedule - I rarely have more than a half-day off, let alone a weekend or longer.

My yardstick - the success I'm measuring by the big goal of getting two science degrees in five years or less - is too long.  The actual event is so far off as to give me the impression that I'm just spinning my wheels on any given day - I have no solid shorter-term goals to focus on and give me some sense of ongoing accomplishment.  It's kind of like in the marvelous book The Phantom Tollbooth, where the characters need to decide how they're going to measure their journey's progress.  There are fewer miles than inches, but the inches go by so much faster!

Right now I'm pondering how to make this work - how to balance the really big, prestigious, supposed-to-be-life-changing events, which require a lot of planning and working and putting off other things, with the smaller, day-to-day things that make me more like the person I want to be.  Which, when it comes down to the wire, can be summed up like this: I want to live a life worth telling stories about.

Leave me any and all ideas you have about awesome goals and/or scary things to try in the comments! There's also a Project Fear Less update coming soon.  I call it "Shame Cleaning."


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