I’d like to say I’ve been thinking all day about what I would share with you. But I didn’t.
Instead I pulled myself out of bed at sunrise, walked a mile to class, and was promptly told it was cancelled. I went to my second class, finished some computer work, went to my next class (in which we discussed the sameness of donuts and coffee cups), had lunch and studied with a friend, went to a work meeting, had dinner, and went to my last class.
Then, when I got home, I balanced my check book.
It was a thoroughly typical day, but this is not a typical post.
If the title didn’t give it away, this is my five hundredth post on the Writingwolf.
The number is technically higher, since over a hundred posts were moved to my fiction and poetry blog Silent Soliloquy a few summers back, but there’s still something special in reaching this number. It’s a milestone. An accomplishment. Something…special.
So when I got home, feeling the weight of homework assignments, impending reviews, textbook readings, and a plethora of emails to respond to, I wasn’t feeling any particular inspiration. But this is post 500. I couldn’t let it pass without notice.
Then again, is 500 really such an accomplishment? Maybe I should celebrate when I reach 1000. Maybe I really shouldn’t celebrate until I reach 1,500, or seven years, or ten years.
This sort of thing is easy to fall into. If I reach one goal, then I should immediately set another goal, a larger goal, and so long as I seem successful, I will never know success.
Yes, you read that correctly: So long as I seem successful, I will never know success.
Because as soon as I succeed, I adjust my definition of success to something else. And on those inevitable occasions when that next destination is finally out of reach, I confirm all those sinking suspicions I’ve always had: I am a failure, and I always have been.
It’s poisoned thinking, and this thinking has become epidemic in our culture. It keeps us down and prevents us from enjoying fruitful, joyous lives. I’d say capitalism or Puritanism or some other –ism is to blame, but we let it happen. Every January 1 we paste to-do lists on our mirrors, and by February 1 every one of us feels like a miserable failure.
I’ve been trying to break free of this thinking for some time, trying to abandon traditional goals in favor of something more solid and suggestive of long-term, continual success, and I’ve also been rephrasing how I say things: I am not a failure; rather I failed.
When I say “I failed,” it speaks to my actions, my behavior, and my mindset, not to who I am as a human being, as a person, as a student/teacher/leader and all the other roles I fill.
I can be more mindful of how I see the world, be more aware of how I act and how I plan my actions, and with commitment and courage, I can change my actions, my behavior, my mindset to reflect the person I want to be, the person already inside waiting to be realized.
It isn’t easy. I still sit at the front of my classes, staring at the board, wondering if I belong here, realizing I’ve forgotten that formula that probably I should’ve memorized. And I still get back to my apartment, fall into my chair, and look at my to-do list (or rather, where it should be, since it isn’t there yet) and wonder if I’m actually capable of doing all this.
I doubt myself. I criticize myself. I beat myself up for feeling like a failure.
But all that’s behind me, and I know I can leave it behind me, that I can look forward, that I can look at the moment and see what I have. See that it’s good. See it’s worth celebrating.
So this post may not mark my one thousandth or commemorate a decade of blogging, but reaching 500 posts is still a milestone, and as I write these words, I’m reminded of all the moments I’ve shared with my readers, all the times writing here has helped me understand things inside I hadn’t even seen before, all the change my words have made.
This isn’t a stopping point, but it’s still a time to pause, to celebrate.