Milestones And Other Things I Hardly Believe In

“This week? No, no real update. I put in an application but now I have to wait. By next week it will be settled.”

“This week? No, not much. My application was accepted, but I haven’t signed the lease yet. I’ll do that over the weekend.”

“This week? Nah. I signed the lease but I don’t have the keys or anything.”

“This week? Uh uh. I got the keys but I haven’t really had a chance to start moving my stuff.”

Did you ever notice how often we think there’s a milestone in our future–a moment when the thing we just want to be over will finally be completed, when the weight will lift off our shoulders, when we will feel like we’ve “made it” or at least grown a little?

Then the time passes, you get to where you were waiting to be, and you find that future resolution point has moved back with the horizon, or the vacuum left by whatever you wanted finished gets immediately filled in with the next challenge.

So much real progress is incremental. We’re taught, as kids, to look forward to the big ceremonial events that signal a change. Graduation. Birthdays. The last day of classes. It’s a helpful way of structuring our thoughts, sometimes–a reminder to look back at what we’ve accomplished–but I’m finding that now, in The World, those milestones I got used to are fewer and further between. Accomplishments accrue over a series of days, months, even years, until you sit down to catalogue what you’ve done and think, “Whoa.”

For example, when would we call our script for “pr0ne” “done?” After the first draft? Of course not, but it was still a “finishing.” It was a moment where we had a full play. How about after we incorporated notes from the first reading? The version the cast read last weekend? The version they’ll read tomorrow, with only two songs needing tweaks? The truth is, the play is going to keep evolving until the last night of performances. It, like commencement speakers like to say of our education, is a process, not a milestone. At least not until it’s truly, fully, it’s-been-a-month-since-I-even-had-to-think-about-it over.

I’m thinking about my conversations with people I see every day, or with my parents, who I talk to at least once a week. How rarely do we have real, conclusive news? But our lives are still moving and developing. The closer you are to them, the more often you cross paths with them, the more they look like streams rather than ruled lines with markers every hundred feet.

For every goal we achieve, there’s something related just around the corner, yet to come.

It doesn’t minimize the importance of what we did. I think it’s vital to take time every so often to look at where we’ve been and what has happened in our lives. That’s why the milestones I do believe in are celebrations. Rituals. Things like anniversaries, or weddings, or funerals. Times to be with the people who matter to us and share a little “wow” at what’s been going on.

I guess what I’m going on about (I don’t even really know) is that we should be able to appreciate the little gains we make every day. One more scene written. One more bill paid off. Sure, it’s nice to get to that point where you know you have it made, but the likelihood of getting there–and staying there–isn’t always the highest. I dunno, cue the cheesy music if you like, but maybe we could make every day its own little milestone.

Or just get married about seven times to make sure we really lock that “achievement feeling” down.

One or the other.

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