Sometimes it feels like life is dangling a carrot in front of your nose, and you’re working so hard to get the juicy, orange vegetable you forget you don’t even like carrots in the first place.
For me, that carrot is called “Accounting”; the degree which will lead to a steady, well-paying job enabling me to lead a comfortable life of my own until I find a good husband and settle down with some babies.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I genuinely enjoy Accounting – for an English major, I’m a math whiz; a potential engineer or physicist gone wrong from her love of books and writing. But there’s nothing about that model life I really want. It’s a safety net, but if I doubt my own ability to follow my passion and sabotage myself on my path to becoming an author, it’s the life I’m going to get.
My English degree is the only thing keeping me sane, but it’s impracticability to find employment is what has my family worried. “You can always write books while you have your Accounting job,” my father has told me time and time again. And he’s right, I could. But once life becomes comfortable for me as a cubicle accountant who doesn’t mind her job and enjoys the vacations she’s able to take, it’s easy to tuck away our dreams and passions for the sake of simplicity. When writing while I’m working becomes difficult, which one do you think I’m going to abandon? My dependable salary, or a passion in which I can obscure my talent through words of fear? Writing will soon subside to a “what-if”, and I’ll be another cog in the corporate machine forever thanks to my safety-net degree.
It’s caused me to realize we, as the silly little humans we are, hide from the things we love because we’re afraid. People of this modern day and age have become masters of discretely weaving around whatever it is we yearn for, trying to lock our eyes on something else altogether in order to ignore our passion; something safer and less intimidating, something which doesn’t cause you to jolt awake in the middle of the night in palpitating fear of losing it.
In other words, we lock our eyes on a carrot.
So, when all we really want out of life is a big, juicy steak, we force ourselves to chase a carrot instead.
We reduce ourselves from a fearless, ferocious, meat-eating lion all the way down to a timid, fluffy, carrot-nibbling bunny.
And then we doom ourselves. For the rest of our lives, to chase the abominable carrot we couldn’t really care less about. When all we really long for in life is a beautifully charred slab of red meat.
(Side note: My sincerest of apologies if you happen to be vegetarian or vegan; I’d tell you to swap the analogy, but it seems odd to me to live as a lion who envies a bunny. Hopefully you have your life together enough you won’t have to stress too much about the applicability of this whole ramble.)
The big idea is we could be so much more than we already are if, with all of our might, we simply tried. We could hold fast to the things we love without a flicker of worry, we could tread past the fear like hot coals beneath our determined minds, and we could even soar above all expectation, past any self-imposed limits.
But doing something like this is a lot easier to write about than to actually accomplish.
And it turns out, writing about it is pretty damn hard, too.
I love writing; to me, there is no juicier, more well-seasoned steak. When I string together words to create the perfect sentence, it’s a symphony of flavors in my mouth. But there’s the age-old habit of parents ordering their children to “eat your vegetables,” and so I’ve had to put my writing on the backburner in order to engage in more sustainable habits.
Noticing I haven’t written much lately has caused me to wonder if I even need writing. Could I live a life without it? Probably. Would I be happy? Probably.
But would I be whole?
Honestly, I’m not sure. There’s a lump of fear lodged in my heart whenever I finish a piece. It’s one thing writing for yourself, but it’s a whole other ballpark writing for other people. There is a very great chance I’ll never be significant enough to be published, or if I am, read by the masses. Even if I go after that big, juicy steak, there’s still a chance it’s ripped away from me and I’ll be left with carrots for the rest of my life.
So why not get a headstart and become accustomed now?
The whole ordeal causes me to wonder: why do we hold ourselves back? Is it some primitive instinct, catered to be eons of evolution? Is it yet one of the multitudinous flaws in the human psyche? Or is it society, perpetually preparing us in case we’re not good enough, to set our sights lower and be content with participation trophies?
Because I know it’s not just me. It’s plagued generations past and will continue to infect many more minds belonging to future posterity. The majority of the world has become complacent rabbits, chewing on our carrots, pretending to ignore the constant craving for meat (or, you know, quinoa, or some other herbivore friendly substitute). It’s easy–convenient, even–to rationalize carrots taste better than hunger in the event of failure, in the case of just not being good enough to earn that steak.
More and more I’ve been contemplating: what is it those few people (flip through your high school yearbook, it’s the people always being quoted) have which enabled them to take their flawed self and some outlandish dream, and turn it into reality? To gain inspiration, I often skim through Google Images to find quotes from the Greats: writers who everyone venerates, who have posed such interesting societal questions people read and re-read their books to try and grasp for answers. Kurt Vonnegut once said, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
It struck a chord with me, and for the longest time I wasn’t sure why. Who in their right of mind would want to go through something like that to get to their steak? Especially with society shoving ostentatious carrots in your face. How could someone accomplish such a feat? How could I accomplish such a feat? I’m obviously nowhere near as talented.
I thought the answer must have been courage, but now I’m not quite sure. It sounds strange to say, but it takes more than courage to conquer fear. Fear is a rather strategical opponent–it knows you better than you know yourself, so you’re going to need more than a brave face to effectively combat it.
I’ve mulled over the possibility of it being gumption for some time now. I was convinced if you had enough devotion to spurn your sides so strongly you couldn’t ignore the impulse, you could get anything done–of course, being clever and resourceful could sure tip the odds in your favor as well. But regardless, gumption burns out awfully quick when you’ve got a long way to go. It can give you a mighty kick start, but when you’re waist deep, it fizzles out like when a flame reaches the end of its wick of a measly candle instead of a stick of dynamite.
I finally realized the only way to earn the steak, the only way to become immune to the reassuring lull of carrots, the key to overcoming fear, is by surrendering to the very thing which causes the fear in the first place: your love for steak. If love can’t outweigh the fear, you’re never going to get anywhere. Which means you’ve got to put everything you have into it.
Which means I’ve got to stop doubting myself and adopt a writing routine. I need to carry around a notebook with me and write down whatever snippets of inspiration dawn on me instead of letting them fade into the abyss of my mind, forever forgotten. I need to experiment with new techniques and expand my literary repertoire to include even the most abstract and atrocious books. I need to put writing first and life second, and stop making sorry excuses for myself. I need to embrace my inner lioness and roar with ferocity everytime my fingers glance a keyboard. But most importantly, I need to remember why I love writing. It’s hard to pinpoint, but if I want to succeed, then it means I have to.
I love writing because it’s an eternal hand of light pulling readers through whatever dark times they’re experiencing; writing is the way I can help others resist carrots and build the courage to chase after their steaks. God knows it was the books I’ve read that have gotten me this far. If you love something enough, then no challenge or obstacle is too taxing to prevent you from chasing it with your entire existence.
Who knows if I’m right? Maybe I’ll fail miserably and end up a bitter accountant anyways. It’s not like I have a lion on hand to vouch for me. But if somebody’s got to test this theory out, it might as well be me.
Because, I don’t know about you, but I am sick of carrots.
Edited by: Sabrina Loftus