It was a valid question. “Do you feel that you have arrived?” It was asked of me the other day by a thoughtful interviewer, Johnny Tan of “From My Mama’s Kitchen” BlogTalk Radio, as we neared the end of the hour we’d spent discussing my new book, my old book, my music, writing process, and the long and winding road of my particular creative journey. He posed the question and my usual quippy self took a pause; I had to really think before I answered.
Had I arrived? It was clear he meant in the context of my career, but given my penchant for deeper analysis, could any answer not take into account the full spectrum of my life? Mine couldn’t. And it made me ponder: what was the status of my ETA?
Here’s the thing: until the day we die, we are all in the process of little arrivals—the fruition of life-plan elements (the job[s], marriage[s], kids, the vacation to Sydney; a house with the nice back yard); the transcension of injuries, obstacles, and barriers thrown in our path; the fulfillment of chapters and milestones; the accomplishment of incremental goals; sometimes just the courage and wherewithal to get to the end of the day! We have plans, thoughts, dreams, even of the smallest kind, that keep us in a state of constant arrival, and that’s good. It means we’re still up, moving, vibrant and engaged, still embracing life and looking ahead to our next steps, wherever they may lead. That keeps the blood pumping, keeps us from the inertia and apathy of life deferred, life over…and that is a very good thing. Since we’re living life, we may as well stay in it.
But beyond philosophizing, heartfelt and authentic though it may be, there remained the intent of Johnny’s question: have I arrived?
That can only be answered in two parts…because my life has always been, for better or worse, divided into two essential and very different entities: my personal life and my creative life. I’m quite certain Johnny was referring to my creative life, so let me focus first through that particular filter:
NO. Let’s be blunt. I have not arrived. If I had, more people would be reading this blog, more of my books would be flying off shelves, my Tweets would get LOTS more attention than they do, my pithy offerings would get viraled all over the Internet, there’d be lines at my book store signings, and I would not feel like I’m still auditioning in some areas of my life. So, candidly? ETA undetermined.
I’m getting there, at least I think I’m getting there, but since I’m framing the word to mean “reached my goals, summited the peak, hit the mark, bullseyed the target,” I have definitely not yet accomplished all that. Some of it, certainly. And I remain indefatigable. I still believe I can fly. But for whatever reasons—voracious appetite, unbounded ambition; desire to have impact—my targets, peaks, and goals have always been BIG ones, high ones, the hard ones that don’t make themselves particularly easy, for me or anyone, really, to summit. So I’m still climbing…still on my way. It may be true that there ain’t no mountain high enough, but damn if this one ain’t giving the saw a run for its money!
And, hey, I’ve had some significant “smaller arrivals” worth mentioning: bands that were pure and utter exhilaration; productions that sparked creativity-highs; songs that came together like Muse-magic; records that soundtrack each glorious moment of their creation; books that pulled me in while writing every single chapter. The list goes on. I’ve had, so far, a great, exciting, well-traveled, and brilliantly collaborative creative journey, and I’m not done yet. But I’m also not there yet, to that place where my platform is high enough, my reach far enough, my voice loud enough to touch as many lives, as many ears; create as much change, inspire as much inspiration, and have enough resources to get done what I want to get done before I arrive at the end of my particular journey. I intend to get there. I will holler far and wide when I do. You’ll hear me; I tend to be loud. For now, I’ll keep climbing.
But where I have arrived? At that other side of my life, my personal life. A place that for many years was a struggle for me, both internally and within the realm of relationships: partner, wife, friend, mother, daughter, aunt, cousin, mentor; lady next door. There I have arrived.
However it happened—and believe me, I am not only grateful to the many mentors involved, but take full responsibility for my part in getting myself to those hard-won benefits—after years of crashing and burning, countless missteps, dubious detours, bad behaviors, selective judgment, pink hair, and some really fucking stupid decisions along the way, I have found peace, and created and surrounded myself with the most spectacular network of people I could possibly have imagined. A beautiful, loving, supportive husband, an absolutely stellar son, a lovely stepdaughter who’s created her own lovely family; ten incredible sibs who are all creative and fierce in their own right; a circle of extended family setting the world on fire in their various ways; so many friends of so many personalities, talents, historical attachments, and unbelievable contributions to my life I couldn’t possible list them all, and a bevy of warm, supportive, talented peers in my artistic circle, far and wide, who make that other side of my life feel connected to this one.
I am lucky. Because there I have arrived.
And since life never ceases to surprise us, never ceases to change—the plans, the players, the ground beneath our feet; the rules of the game—I will take stock of this particular arrival with great awareness, knowing my time in this precious place is finite and worthy of my most attentive appreciation. I will revel in it, enjoy it, nurture it, and keep moving forward to that other “arrival” up ahead where my Muse beckons, knowing that really, in the ways most important to me, I’m already there.
Top photograph by James Johnson Photography; second by Tina Romanus; third by Jennie Willens.
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