Making It

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The Atlantic. There it was, right in front of me. I arrived at the coast of New Hampshire just in time to catch the sunset, so the sky over the ocean was pink and orange at the horizon. I could hear a buoy moaning in the distance.

I scrambled over the slippery rocks to the edge of the water, belatedly remembering to take off my shoes, and dipped my toes in. It was surprisingly cold, but I didn’t mind in the slightest. I had made it.

But as I clambered from rock to rock, exploring the beach on my now-wet feet, my excitement at achieving my goal started to fade. It was almost a sinking feeling at the realization:

Aww shit. I still have to drive back.

*          *          *

In my last post, I talked about process, which I still think is the most important thing for goal setting. It may sound like drudgery, but process is most of what any goal consists of. The thing about process is, if you do it enough, you usually end up achieving your goals.

And goals are funny things to achieve. I’ve managed to cross a few off my list in my life. Every time I do, I think: this is the one. This will be the one that will change me. This will be the one that’ll make me happy forever when I accomplish it.

You’d think by now that I’d learn not to fall for it. But there I was, looking out over the Atlantic, and I was still just me looking at a really big body of water. I was happy, I was excited, I was grumbling about the drive back. I was all those things, but there was nothing profound waiting for me at the opposite shore.

Despite the lack of profundity, I still plan on accomplishing a few more goals in my life. So this is a reminder to myself as much as anything for what to expect next time.

First, the point where you can cross a goal off your list and proclaim it accomplished is very rarely the actual end of the goal. You always have to drive back, so to speak.

For example, my first modeling trip was also, oddly enough, to New Hampshire. I went in spring, but there was still snow on the ground. I remember playing in it between shoots and thinking I’d made it. I was officially a traveling model.

Technically, it was true. I had traveled as a model—all the way across the country, no less—and had been paid to do it. I could cross it off my list. But to actually make a career out of it, I had to do it another dozen times.

Seeing an ocean didn’t change me, but getting there did.

Second, like I said before, it’s all about the process. Seeing an ocean didn’t change me, but getting there did.

On this trip I shot again with the very first photographer I ever posed nude for. That shoot alone showed me how much I’ve grown and changed as a model over the past seven years—and how much I’m still learning.

Another night, I camped alone in the middle of the woods. Sure, there were people nearby in case something went really wrong, but I had that whole campground to myself. I learned a thing or two about self-reliance by doing that, and how much I depend on other people. Hell, traveling alone as a woman and what I learned doing so is an essay in and of itself.

So maybe I didn’t find the meaning of life or happiness or purpose or whatever in the Atlantic. And yes, I still had to drive all the way back.

But you know what? That trip back was just more process too. It was more chances for insights, and to learn and grow and change.

Traveling Narratives

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I’m currently in the middle of a cross-country road trip, driving from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and modeling along the way. Because of this, I’m getting lots of texts from home, almost every day. “Where are you headed to next?” “Are you having fun?”

First, let me say that yes, I’m having a lot of fun. This is the trip of a lifetime. I’m making art and seeing friends I wouldn’t otherwise get to visit. I’m traveling through new states, and going all the way to the other side of the country just to stick my toes in the ocean. And I get to do it on my own schedule, booking work and lodging along the way with no solid return date. It’s a dream come true.

But there are some downsides. I expected to miss my partners terribly. And I do. But what I didn’t expect was to I miss my writing.

I’m still writing some from the road, as this blog post should show. I’m trying to pull a bit of a Kerouac. But I was writing more than “some” at home; I was writing a lot. Hours every day. Basically, whenever I wasn’t running my modeling business, I was writing. I’ve been enjoying the process immensely, but I was still surprised to miss it. Why? Because writing is work. Good, fulfilling work, but still, in the end, work. I thought I would have enjoyed a bit of a break—after all, I have to make myself work when I’m home, rather than fall into the easy temptations of bad TV and social media.

But it turns out that writing and road trips have a thing in common. Although there have been some amazing moments on the road, a lot of a road trip is just, well, driving. It’s work. It’s kind of drudgery. So I’m not always sure how to answer the texts about whether I’m having fun. Because I am, but it’s just not that entertaining to talk about the process.

Writing is the same way. It’s hours spent working, not just the fun of reading the finished project. So is modeling—that requires endless emails and booking tours and scheduling before I ever step in front of a camera. Same with music, which when I was playing professionally meant practicing for six hours a day. I enjoyed all these things, or I wouldn’t have done them (okay, except maybe the email. I kind of hate email).  But a major part of being a model, musician, or writer doesn’t look at all like what people expect.

The key to success is finding drudgery you enjoy.

I think the key to success, if there even is such a thing, is finding drudgery you enjoy. And luckily, I enjoy driving. And apparently, writing.

I’ve found we often do ourselves a disservice in the drudgery department. Instead of enjoying the process, we tell ourselves oversimplified narratives, focusing on the final outcome, or the challenges. The colorful, remarkable points that make engaging stories. And worse, we seem to expect them from others—like the texts asking whether I’m having fun. These narratives capture all the highs and lows, but they skip all the work that actually makes the thing happen. It’s the bullet points. It’s seeing snow glistening on the continental divide as far as your eye can see, and skipping over the four hours of driving that got you there.

Highs and lows are not how you build a modeling career, or run a blog for three years. It’s not how you drive across the U.S. either.

So when I answer my texts from the road, I’ll make sure to tell them about my latest adventure. Because I truly am excited about it. But maybe I can convey some sense of the real magic of the road trip too—all that time to drive and think.