My daughter is about to go to the UK, in what would have been called her OE if she were going for longer, or was younger, but is probably now more accurately an extended holiday. Although, she’s chucking in her job when she leaves, and she has no plans for what she’s going to do when she returns. She hasn’t found her ikigai yet. It’s okay. I hadn’t either at her age. I want to let her know it’s okay to be floundering. That she doesn’t have to measure her life against the people around her. So I tried to buy her a keepsake quoting Thoreau, to take with her on her travels. Problem: on Etsy they all look like this:
Well, this is just utterly wrong.
The original quote, from Thoreau’s Walden, is
“. . . if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
There is a huge fucking difference between “Live the life you have imagined” and “Endeavor to live the life you have imagined.”
It’s about trying. Struggling, striving, laboring. It’s about exertion and slog. Doing the hard yards. Yakka. About getting up day after day and just bloody giving it a go, and failing, but getting up the day after that, and doing it all over again anyway.
And you might never get there. “Success unexpected” doesn’t mean you get everything you set out to achieve. Contrary to the beliefs espoused on reality talent shows, wanting it with your whole heart still doesn’t mean it will happen.
I definitely have a life I imagine. I earn enough from my fiction writing to pay all my bills, stash away some savings, look after my family, travel to a writing con or retreat every couple of years, and I can buy an espresso or a book each week without considering the cost.
I am not living this life.
But I am endeavoring to live this life. I am doing what I can to achieve it, one sunrise at a time, one sentence at a time. It’s fine if I don’t ever get there. I won’t have failed, because I will have spent my time on the journey. And maybe what I imagine will change in another 10 years anyway.
Whereas if I was judging myself through the evidence I was indeed “living the life I had imagined,” well, I’m a huge disappointment to myself.
Embrace the endeavor, talented Etsy makers.
One thought on “Etsy artists screw up Thoreau”
That is so fucking true. Path vs goal. I’ve launched 5 companies. Not one worked out the way I had on the business plan. Not REMOTELY. We changed our brand names, pricing, products, staff, locations, etc. Yet every single one was profitable to some degree. And every one gave me friends, knowledge, and wonderful experiences. But I needed to imagine a path, put together that business plan, to get started.
Also, lets face it, women in particular are often screwed if they follow the path they were initially socialized into imagining is correct or even possible. At 8, I thought it would be grand to have two kids and live in a small town – thank god that didn’t happen!