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(pronounced Ko-Hane)
Dan is the Bram Stoker-nominated author of Plague of Darkness, Solomon’s Grave, and the critically-acclaimed Margaret's Ark. Writing as G. Daniel Gunn, he released Destroyer of Worlds and the novella (written with L.L.Soares) Nightmare in Greasepaint (Samhain Publishing),. His short stories have appeared in Cemetery Dance, Shroud Magazine, Apex Digest and many more. He and his family live in New England.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Who Am I? (Part 2)


In Part one (which was a devotional - click here to read Who Am I? (Part One)), we talked about the perils of meeting your heroes, and briefly mentioned how we raise up others to be larger-than-life examples of the kind of person we either wish we could be, or strive to be. This is where we pick up now:

Wishing and striving are two very different actions, and the way you look at them will vastly determine the path ahead of you in life.

That's the kind of man I want to be.
I wish I was like him.

Which of the above statements would end in a resigned sigh? Most likely, the second. If wishes were fishes, and all that. On the surface, they sound similar. Follow them along the path they lay out for you, however, and the destination will vastly differ.

That's the kind of man (or woman or artist or park ranger or ball player) I want to be.

This statement implies you can, if you choose, become like this person, even better. You are pointing to someone and saying, "role model," "example" (living or otherwise), "goal." As in a race, when you see the finish line and aim for it, a person raised up as an example before us – and by us (key point) – is a destination towards which we direct our lives.

When we were young, people often pointed at little Johnny (apologies to all the Johnnys used as literary examples in this way) and say, You should be more like him, or, Your older sister has no problems in gym class, what's your deal? More directly, Why can't you be more like this person, while pointing to an athlete or a speaker or a neighbor or someone on TV.

That approach never works. Forcing a role model on someone breeds discontent. On the other hand, imagine a six-year-old girl watching the Olympics with her mother. Mom says, "Oh, that skater is so amazing. I love watching her." No finger pointing, just genuine awe and respect. If the daughter is athletically inclined, she might see that skater as a hero, a model towards which to strive. Perhaps for no other reason than to make her mother proud.  We do a lot of things in life to make Mom and/or Dad proud. That's an important bonus take-away from all this: If you're a parent, show pride for your children. It is the number one fuel for their early years.

I wish I was like him.

On the other hand, this statement doesn't actually have a destination in sight. As mentioned earlier, it's usually followed by a sigh of discontent. Personally - and yes I'll agree this might be a purely personal feeling with no basis in fact - "wish" is not an active verb. It's a statement of desire without an accompanying action. As someone who has a faith in God and tries to live it out the best I can (which on some days is not very well), I see prayer as being active. Lord, help me to become more like this person; show me ways to reach this level. That's asking for help. Wishing for it is just that and no more.

When I was a teenager, I wished I was a writer. Though I did scribble a few words down, they were quickly discarded. Growing up, my personal dreams and desires were only wishes. I never did anything about them and instead let events and experiences carry me where they may. No complaints, in retrospect, as they were mostly fun times and I did a lot of growing up. After school, job in hand, I started adding actions to my desires. Firstly, I finally conceded that to be a writer, I needed to write. I took a continuing ed course on fiction, read a book on the craft and most formed a writers' group with other newbies. I also read a lot, studying how those (far) better than me created such amazing visuals with words. Many of these were written by people who became in varying degrees my literary heroes.

All of it, adding action to the wish, making desire into a goal. I was off, slowly, but forward.

We all have dreams and wishes and bucket lists. If future accomplishments and worlds-to-visit start off as only wishes that's fine. Wishes come from the imagination and without that we would be standing in little unpainted rooms staring blankly out onto brick alleys all our lives. At the very least, wishes elevate our imaginations away from the mundane to something new and hopefully better.
Soon, though, decide on a first step and take it. Find someone who is doing what you want to do, being who you want to be, and use them as 1) proof that it's possible, 2) an example of how to do it well. You don't need to know them, or ever meet them in person. Decide, then, on the next step, and take that, and the next, all the while putting action to the wish. Once you start, it becomes a goal and the proverbial race is on. Keep going, adjust as necessary, and you will reach the end. One of many ends. There will always be more races, more goals to aim for.

Finally, and most importantly, enjoy the journey. In my life I've finished a number of smaller races and enjoyed the process of getting there. I learned a lot, found new heroes, chose new goals, and started again. I'm on one now – though my end goal is a little fuzzier than usual, and I've been wandering off course. But it'll come. I'll get a better picture, then get back on track.

We all will. It's life, and this a pretty good way to live it.

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