It seems like people say things were so much better in the past, which is probably why “the good ‘ol days” are often referenced more than “right now is probably as good as it’s going to get.”
But the truth is that in life, there will be a moment when you’re at your best.
You might not realize that it’s “that time” when it happens because you’re too busy planning out an uncertain future, or maybe everything will seem perfect and you’ll embrace every second of the ride. Maybe it was last year, maybe it will come tomorrow.
Either way, it will eventually end, and probably too soon.
The truth is reaching the apex of whatever it is you’ve set out to achieve—physically or mentally—can’t be maintained forever. Those moments of absolute, unadulterated happiness or physical perfection are awesome when they happen, but if every day was filled with an overabundance of emotion, it would be exhausting.
So we want to hold on to those moments. We take pictures, we blog about them, we store them away in our memory banks and cash them in during times when we fear we might never feel that great again.
Because most often there’s that voice in the back of your mind that wonders if that moment has passed, if you’ve reached a point of greatness that won’t return again.
If you write or you’re an artist, you worry about writer’s block or a drought in creativity. Every gap not filled with satisfactory production can be viewed as the first drop of decline, as a subtle hint that maybe the last thing you wrote will be the last good thing you will ever write again.
Dramatic? Most certainly.
True? Most often.
The reality is that there has to be an eventual letdown—the post-wedding honeymoon bliss before reality, the post-race runner’s high before the “what’s next?” phase. Those are expected. But if you don’t know you’re in the middle of “it,” can you enjoy it as much as you should?
Although it’s not about “fame” but rather about personal bests, I have certainly enjoyed my very small 15 minutes of “pseudo fame” with the book. While there are many times I turn a good thing into stress, for the most part, I’ve let myself enjoy it.
And while I highly doubt that a rose in mid-bloom thinks about whether or not it’s reached it’s finest hour or stresses over the dropping of each petal, I’m most certainly not a rose. I can’t help but hear that clock ticking in the background as the seconds of my 15 minutes dwindle down.
I’m left wondering if this is all there is, if I will ever sell another copy, if I’m stuck doing what I’m stuck doing right now forever. I want something “else” to happen, but what? How?
I don’t know.
All I do know is that some people peak early. Some people peak late. There are fantastic debuts and remarkable comebacks. But whether you’re famous, an athlete, a waitress or a humble writer such as myself, you’re only at the top once.
Knowing this—and being aware that you might not know just when that is—can motivate you to keep reaching and working for that feeling again, hopefully taking time to enjoy the ride the whole time. Doubt should not serve as a barrier to creativity or progress.
At least that’s what I’m trying to hear myself say above the ticking of that clock and pounding of self-doubt that I’m trying to mute out.
At any rate, the next post with be lighter, but lately, this was on my mind. And since I’m rambling and there’s no graceful way to end this, I’ll share a wise quote from writer Michael Ames that pretty much sums it up:
“Regardless of where we currently lie in our respective timelines, the choice is the same: you can howl at the moon over the years that have come and gone, you can be a tomato and shrivel up and die, or you can move on, buoyed by the knowledge that your best work lives on without you, and there’s still so much more to do.”
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This is a fascinating post to me. My post-bacc/med school decision has forced me to evaluate SO MANY THINGS about aging and where I thought I’d be in my thirties. If you’d asked me ten years ago, I’d have imagined family life and a settled job; today, I expect that (fingers crossed) I’ll be a 3rd year med student at 35; a resident at 37. There will be debt/loans and transience. There will be constant change. And as terrifying as that is to me, I’m learning to appreciate it, enjoy it, and realize that I’ll be lucky to experience so much learning throughout my lifetime.
I think you’re a great example of this, and an inspiration on many levels. Maybe a door will open up for me and an opportunity will present itself for me to also follow my passion, or perhaps I simply need to find a better way to open up that door myself. Thank you for commenting. It meant a lot 😉
I remember Kindergarten was awesome. If only I’d stopped to appreciate my peak…
I know, right? I dominated the damn monkey bars.
Hmm…interesting. I certainly don’t think your book was your “fifteen minutes.” You have bigger and better things coming.
This wasn’t really about the book, but about things in general (the book was just a good concrete example.) I would like to think there are things on the horizon, but at times it’s frustrating to not know what they are, or if I do know what they are, how to make them happen.
I think you have a balanced perspective here Abby. This post was making me “yogically” nervous…my filter was reading concepts like “attachment to feelings” and “striving” and “expectation.” But you brought it around with this phrase: “…hopefully taking time to enjoy the ride the whole time.”
Motivation is good, but dangerous when one keeps reaching for or clinging to something fleeting that is nice, may have felt good, but really ins’t fulfilling in the grand scheme of life. I’ll be honest. I don’t think there is a “peak,” I hope there isn’t one. I would rather…life just flowed on with me riding the wave.
It’s actually not an attachment to results or approval in any way, shape or form, but rather the feeling of actually being proud and excited about something, which are feelings that are often foreign to me. Whether you’re an athlete, an artist or whatever, there’s always that little bit of doubt that eventually your talent/passion/creativity will suddenly leave you. I don’t fear the lack of approval or accolades–those are few and far between–but rather the lack of being able to create or the passion to do so. I really liked having something to work on that I could be proud of. Although I’m fine with things now, part of me wonders, “What’s next?” now that everyone else has moved on. Instead, I will ride the wave of whatever life brings 😉
And some of us are still waiting for our 15 minutes of fame.
Perhaps I should have worded it a bit differently, as I’m not really talking about “fame,” but rather simply being at the top of whatever it is that you’re working towards. Does that make sense? Probably not, but that’s what I meant 🙂
Truthfully, I’m not so sure that I WANT any kind of fame….the idea gives me the heebie-jeebies. But I do believe that we can peak as many times as we want, if we want it, by working to make it happen. I just don’t want it to happen. I’m sooooo bland.
I think it would be weird to have any kind of fame, as to be honest, I’ve never really had an interest or an opportunity for it to happen. And while I agree that we can (and probably should) always set new goals to achieve, there will only be one “real” time when we reach that goal for the first time, whether it’s running your first marathon, getting a promotion, etc. That’s not a bad thing, but part of me wants to hold on to that “wow” feeling longer than I should, simply because I don’t know when it will happen again.
Oh man, I just wrote a comment and then your blog ate it.
In a nutshell:
I feel your pain.
It’s normal to have peaks and troughs.
You’ve got a bright future ahead.
I know it.
You know it.
We all know it.
I’ve been struggling with this for several years now. I feel like I peaked in my last career and then burned out. Now I’m burning out in my current career and I’ve never really hit the same peak as last time. The big difference is that I don’t have another career to change to.
I was almost famous. I worked in broadcasting – tv and radio for six years. I found it uninteresting.
Writing exposes who you are as a person, I think, and thus it’s honest. Your humour and compassion come through in every post. What you’re doing with your book is just flat out special.
I just want to be good….and make enough money to keep these women happy. Ok, that’s asking a lot isn;t it?
For what it’s worth, I think you are “good,” but isn’t that simply a matter of opinion? If you enjoy what you do–which you clearly do, as your passion comes through with your words–that’s really all that matters. Money helps, of course, but only a few get paid to do what they love. For the rest of us, it’s a labor of love. I think that’s why I worry that eventually I’ll just stop and suddenly be blank and left without a “thing.” But then again, dwelling on that possibility takes away the energy that could better be spent doing ANYthing else.
Terrific post, Abby. If the goal is fame, we’ll definitely fall short in terms of self-fulfillment and happiness. I’ve had tid bits of it, you could say, and it’s never all it’s chalked up to be. (Nothing “glamourous” ever is.) The prize is in the journey, right? So we hope. Fortunately, I was raised to follow my dreams, not focus on money or other societal notions of “success.” I cherish my privacy, so good thing I’m not on track to be the next tabloid cover girl… 😉
Thanks for the honest, insightful post! So glad I found your blog.
My goal is never fame, but rather personal satisfaction. There have been so many times that I’ve rushed through and completed things without taking the time to actually feel proud or give myself credit for an accomplishment. I don’t want to do that anymore, as you never know when the next “thing” will be. Thank you for your comment, as I appreciate you “getting” it. Plus, now I can check out your blog 😉
I think I’m still waiting to reach my peak. I’ve always been kind of an offbeat and I’ve never been more grateful than now (that I’m nearing my 30’s), that I didn’t peak in high school. Big things coming…I can feel it.
Thank God high school wasn’t my peak either, as then it would be defined as being in a Speedo and eating burritos after championship swim meets in which we performed “Cheerleader” skits a la Will Ferrel and Cheri Oteri on the pool deck as motivation.
Such a great post. I guess the 15 minutes really depends on what you feel is your best, or your time of “fame.”
To me, it’s times like New Year’s Eve when I handed my last 8 bucks to a homeless guy. He said, “Don’t drink and drive tonight.” I responded, “I’ve been sober quite a while so that’s not gonna happen.” He got the saddest look on his face and said, “I was sober for two years once.” And I said, “Oh hon, if I were on the streets I wouldn’t be sober either. You use that money to get something to warm you up and try to stay warm tonight.” To me, that is when I’m at my best. When I remember not to look past someone that most people would hand some change out the window out and not look at. So I get to have 15 minutes of fame like once a week. 🙂
Yup, I totally agree. I guess I’m just differentiating between personal achievement and personal character. While I get more satisfaction out of those moments that you described and strive to find a few myself whenever I possibly can, this post was kind of centered more on striving for something more personal and tangible–a “thing” to accomplish. I don’t mean that to sound selfish, as I value the moments you mentioned once more, but I do occasionally crave something else I’ve created to feel proud of. Now I’m rambling.
Out the window *to*.
This is a great, deeply felt post. …and I totally disagree, lol. There is no way for me to prove my truth but I know, like I know the sun will rise tomorrow, that we don’t just peak once. Life is filled with peaks and valleys, one peak is only higher if you think it is. You create your own destiny with your own desire. It literally is “have the faith of a mustard seed, and you can move mountains.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of trouble consistently manifesting my own destiny with purpose. BUT, when I do do it, it’s dramatic. I’ll tell you something I’ve only told my closest family in an email to you. You deserve to have many, many highs and you’ll enjoy them even more because you know about the lows. Head up, my new friend.
I love when people have a different opinion than my own, as that means I’m exposed to new perspective. Considering I respect yours immensely, this comment did get me thinking. I both agree and I don’t. While I know there are a million peaks and valleys, I also know that one point, that peak will be higher than it has ever been before. That doesn’t mean everything else can’t be enjoyed and that I’m not constantly striving to create something better or something that will truly satisfy my soul–that’s always my goal–but I still hold that there will be one “it” time. And yes, I’ve had enough lows to know that the highs are something to cherish. Hopefully there will be many more for us both 😉
You put forth some profoundly interesting questions to ponder in this post. But ultimately, trying to identify that one “it” time is a colossal waste of precious time and energy. The answer to that question is never revealed until the end of the story.
I think I already peaked but really don’t want to believe that so I will let myself believe that peakage is right around the corner. However, what I want to peak in or as is still in question. I would definitely never want fame like some do but I dig the personal satisfaction aspect of it.
By the way, this kind of rememinded me of Baz Luhrman’s “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen”
I refuse to admit I’ve reached my peak. I’d like to think there are still amazing things in store for me. Peak be damned!
Sounds like you’re reorganizing and about to re-invent yourself. Great. Something will show up (or is already there unrecognized as you aren’t quite ready). Going in different directions is good – like getting a new haircut or new hair style – you’ll come out charged up and ready to romp. A pause, a re-evaluation is required..or you’ll just go in the same direction (and how dull that would be!) Enjoy the dreaming – and get ready to jump.
i have been “in the middle” stage for the past year. It took me a whole year to recognize that and then appreciate the growth that came from it. It was a year of looking back and forward but not the present. DO i regret it, no. Because you are right, we must take it for whats its worth and be present. We are in in charge of our own happiness.
This post really got me thinking. Unfortunately I’m trying to think less and DO more this year. Damn you!
Seriously, I do think about this quite often and wonder if I’ve already reached the highest level I ever will. It’s depressing because I have so much more in me that needs to be shared.
At 40, I feel old some days and have lost a lot of things in the last decade but I have high hopes for the future and feel like we can always be better than we were today.
I agree. We CAN always be better than we were today. But if we’re not, that’s okay too 😉
Oh you know I feel this: “you worry about writer’s block or a drought in creativity. Every gap not filled with satisfactory production can be viewed as the first drop of decline, as a subtle hint that maybe the last thing you wrote will be the last good thing you will ever write again.”!! That said however, I think that you may be correct that you are only on top once I think you can be “on top” in different areas as your life evolves. I’m not saying that to perpetuate unrealistic expectations but more as a hopeful thing?
that quote rocks. “there’s still so much to do”. isn’t there…so much.
Interesting thoughts. . . I don’t know that I really think much about my own ’15 minutes’. . . Though, sometimes I think maybe my career peaked with the giant kidney worms, and now I have a long career of never being that cool again ahead of me. . . ;P
Actually, now that I think on it, I think everytime I do something awesome I have a moment of worry about whether I will ever be that awesome again, or experience something that awesome again. . . but then I stop thinking about that and just try to enjoy the moment. Because if it’s never going to happen again, I don’t want to miss it now!
of course, right now i have a friend who has made it his job to convince me i’m this ridiculously amazing and awesome person, so I’m finding it a lot easier to think more positively and hopefully about the future. So, maybe I will one day, somehow, top “giant kidney worms”. . . .