The Value of Long-Term Projects

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In the documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, the musician Sting comments on today’s trend of achieving instant fame through reality TV shows like “American Idol.” He says he feels that those who have reached stardom through such shows miss out on the spiritual journey artists from his generation and before had to experience on their road to fame and fortune. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, but perhaps a sad thing: a rite of passage and a period of personal growth seems to have been lost as many of today’s celebrities don’t get to experience that journey. Times have certainly changed and the world has sped up at an incredible pace. Some of us adapt, some of us don’t. I myself have fallen victim to this culture of instant gratification. Whether its faster internet speed or faster Amazon deliveries, I’ll take the quickest option if I can afford it (or justify it to my somewhat critical self). But the question begs of us, what do we do once that feeling of anticipation has been quenched? Is it off to the next big thing?

I thought of this today as I reached another personal milestone as a first-time homeowner. Ever since moving into my new condo this past summer, it has been a gradual process of making the place feel like a home. Buying furniture, purchasing decor and accessories, new dishes, new bedding…it’s all been a steady process for me and has stretched out over several months and will likely last a few years. I am not married and have not had the benefit of a wedding registry to help me jump-start the building my new home. I’ve had to do it on my own, with my own funds, and on my own timeline. This truly has been (and continues to be) a long-term, solo project, but one that I have actually enjoyed.

So when the painting (Diego Rivera’s “Vendedora Alcatraces,” which I have had my heart set on after lots of searching for that perfect picture) arrived this week and was finally hung in the master bedroom this morning, I felt a strange mix of emotions: contentment, excitement, but a little sadness at the fact that this room, that has for so long been bare and minimalist, is now halfway toward being complete.

It’s hard to explain, I know. But it goes back to Sting’s observation about the spiritual transformation one undergoes during a long, drawn-out process with a clear, but distant destination. What happens when you finally get there? (Or in the case of my silly master bedroom design project, nearly get there?)

I truly do believe we human beings were meant to thrive off long-term goals and projects—even in this day and age of instant gratification. There is something about finally reaching a distant destination after a long journey of planning, studying, researching and personal investment. It’s not just a sense of satisfaction that comes at the end of it all, it really is a period of growth that you might not recognize until you’ve reached the glorious end. Sure, decorating my home is not the same as achieving fame and fortune, but there have been experiences and emotions along the way that have kept me busy, kept me going.

As I admired my “new” bedroom today, mentally ticking off the other items I needed to make it complete, my mind rushed to the other rooms in my home that need finishing touches, and as eager as I am to have everything perfect, I quietly found myself feeling thankful that there was still more to do…there is still more to look forward to.

Let us hope we never reach that stage in life where we find there is suddenly nothing left to do or work toward. Let us always hope we have constant goals to achieve and destinations to reach, for how sorry life would be without such journeys.

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