October 13, 2015 by Gregory Josephs
Making it Happen
When we are children things simply happen. For most of us, hot meals appear several times a day and each night a safe, warm bed awaits us. We do not ask how or even why these things occur, simply take for granted that they do and will. All of our needs are met while we are blissfully unaware of just what that process requires. We have no concept of forty hour work weeks, mortgages or rent payments, utility bills or groceries. We cannot imagine the struggle that is sometimes required to pay for our comfortable existence—seconds jobs or even parents missing meals so that we may eat. The details of our childhoods are as different as our particular situations, but the overarching theme is:
We are provided for.
Then as we get older our parents and caretakers begin to impart upon us a sense of responsibility. We may be charged with such heinous tasks as washing the dishes or taking out the trash. Our teachers introduce us to the idea of work by sending assignments home with us to be completed on our own time. Perhaps we receive an allowance and begin to learn the value of money. These things all exist to educate us about how to live in the real world as adults. Still, if we fumble—if we fail to meet our responsibilities—there is often someone right behind us to pick up the slack. Unwashed dishes may require a lecture but eventually if we are not forced they will be done by someone else. The odor of rotting garbage will entice others to take it out. And if we’ve spent our allowance foolishly but convince our parents that we really need that new expensive whatever, it will often make its way into our hands anyways.
Ultimately thats alright! We are children, after all. We’re learning, and no reasonable adult expects perfection from a child.
For some of us, this fumbling of responsibility continues into post adolescence and beyond. At some point in the life of every college student there will be a roommate who refuses to clean up after cooking. Pots and pans left on counters magically find their way cleaned and back on a shelf to be dirtied again with the next bag of ramen noodles. That is, until the day someone places them, oily and reeking in said roommates bed. This scenario makes for an uncomfortable situation no matter if you are the dirt ball or the aggressor. Still, that theme from childhood continues onward. In general, if we just throw our hands in the air without a care, things still get done.
Luckily those who refuse to learn responsibility early on tend to be forcibly corrected later in life. Choosing not to go to work results, ultimately, in termination. Choosing not to clean oneself results in poor health and social stigma. Deciding not to pay credit card bills is rewarded by phone calls, letters, and a credit score that takes the better part of a decade to recover. There are natural consequences to these actions. And still for many of us our families can remain a safety net. We can always move home or get a loan from daddy. Surely if we wait around long enough someone will swoop in to save the day—
Much of this is simply part of growing up. I’ve been guilty of several of these transgressions. Its all well and good, but ultimately any lapse in our responsibility—any time we let someone else do something for us—we are agreeing to be passengers in our own lives. Its not the way I want to live and I have done my best to avoid it. I choose to avoid trouble whenever possible, and when I find myself in it I try to find a way back out at the hands of my own ingenuity.
I aspire to be an active participant in the design of my destiny.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with TEORG or writing. It has occurred to me over the past couple of years that many of the greatest things in my life happen only when I make them happen.
In the early spring of 2014 my (now) husband and I decided it was finally time to get married. We’d been talking about it for years but there was always some reason to push it off. We’d actually requested a space the previous fall and been denied the time that we wanted so were content to push it off for another year. But then at the beginning of March we got a date for September and all of a sudden we had six months to plan and execute a wedding.
By mid April both of us worried that maybe we were in over our heads. Hopefully getting married is something we only do once in a lifetime and its not exactly as if we had a guide book. I didn’t know how to hire a caterer or rent a tent or estimate how much alcohol we needed or determine how many bistro tables. The mountain of tasks that needed to get done was overwhelming and there were times I wished I could just quit—
But I realized that if we didn’t do it no one was going to do it for us. Our parents weren’t going to swoop in and plan this wedding for us. Our friends weren’t going to pick up the slack. It was our responsibility alone and I think it may have been the first time in my entire life where I was really in that situation. If I don’t do it, it just won’t get done.
Of course the wedding was a great success. And having accomplished that I felt like we could do anything. I felt like I could do anything!
Next came the purchase of our condo. This past February when we were planning to start our search that familiar feeling of being overwhelmed resurfaced. We needed three things: a loan, a realtor, and a property to buy. Having none of them it was difficult to decide where to start. Then of course all the reading I did online served only to further confuse and confound me. The whole process seemed impossible and I was once again left with this realization that if we didn’t do it for ourselves no one else was going to. We picked the realtor first, then figured out the loan and very quickly everything fell into place.
Getting married and buying our home were two of the greatest pleasures of my entire life. Perhaps they were more so because they were also two of the greatest accomplishments of my entire life. They’ve left me energized and amazed by what my husband and I can do when we work together. They’ve also left me wondering what I can achieve through my own raw determination.
Which finally brings us to TEORG. As I’ve mentioned countless times before I’ve been kicking this can down the road for six years. This really is what I want to do with my life. I’ve come back to this project and this idea of being a writer time and time again. But it hasn’t happened for me yet (maybe its happening now) because I haven’t made it happen. As an interesting aside my dear friend LeeMarie Kennedy recently wrote about the idea of being a writer on her blog—
The truth is, its terrifying! I don’t really know how to write a novel, and I don’t really know how this novel is going to end. Then, when I get to the end of the first draft, I don’t know how many revisions its going to take to shine it up into something worthy of print. At some point down the road I’m going to have to hire a literary agent and I don’t have the slightest idea how to go about that process. The only certainty I have in all of this is that its going to have to be me that does it all. No one else is going to write it and no one else is going to sell it. This is me and me alone.
I guess in realizing this I’m in a good place when it comes to my manuscript. Chapter Seven is the end of Part 1 of the book—a closing to a very self-contained extended exposition that could almost be a novella in and of itself. Throughout the chapters I’ve already posted Ryan has acted much like the post adolescents I described earlier. He is simply led around as a passenger in his own life. I think if you reflect you’ll find he makes very few decisions on his own, opting instead to let things happen to him. Very soon he’s going to decide that its much better to make things happen for himself and, in his case, thats not always a good thing.
Chapter Seven will be available Friday.