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.
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.