I completed a major milestone yesterday. I’ve been working on a big project for the past couple of years and yesterday, I finally sent it out to a bunch of agents. It was one of those photo-finish endings that had me kneeling in a corner of the local post office with about 12 different piles of material, a bunch of bubble-wrap envelopes, a handful of rubber bands and a magic marker, furiously checking and double-checking that the right material was going to the right agent (which did nothing to endear me to the officials at said post office. Suffice to say that like most things British, the whole “leg room” concept has yet to take hold, even in post offices…) There was also an enormous queue, so that I had to stand there for like 20 minutes clutching my 12 packages, literally sweating, as I waited to send them off.
But once I mailed it all off, instead of feeling gleeful, joyous, ebullient, ecstatic…(Help me out here, guys. What are other synonyms for happy?)…I felt oddly…deflated. I came home and sat down on the sofa and didn’t know what to do with myself. Gretchen Rubin, of Happiness Project fame, talks about the arrival fallacy to capture the notion that we all think that once we hit a deadline/meet a goal/cross the proverbial finish line, the clouds will part and suddenly happiness, relief, satisfaction etc will rain down upon us. Not so. At least for me, the opposite is usually true: I find myself missing the purpose and momentum that preceded the deadline, uncertain over where I’m headed, and nervous, already, about how said project will fare. In short: there is no joy in the achievement. Only a sense of loss and anxiety.
I shared these feelings with my sister, who said I was in good company. Apparently, Charles Dickens reported something similar when sending out David Copperfield.
Of course, the solution to all this, as Rubin and others will tell you, is to take more joy in the process than in the outcome. To learn that the game of life, to quote a cheesy phrase, is all about the journey and not about the destination. Easy words to say; a simple concept to grasp; an almost impossible goal to achieve. But one of those eternal lessons of adulthood, nonetheless.
So I soldier on, endeavoring to take more joy in the doing. In the meantime, I’m trying to come up with a list of other ways that I might possibly compare myself to Charles Dickens. Let’s see. He lived in London, there’s one…Hey! Maybe this is what I should spend my time doing today as a cure to the post-finish-line blues…