Lately I’ve been wrestling with a low level feeling of despair.
It’s not the kind of crippling depression where you can’t get anything done; it’s more of a low-level background hum that never quite goes away, like a cough that you just can’t seem to shake. I think it comes from toiling day after day and feeling like nothing is growing.
A few weeks back I was in this same place, feeling like the things I’m spending my precious time and my energy on aren’t going anywhere, aren’t turning into the things I hope they will. And that’s kind of discouraging. Sometimes we have such huge dreams and sometimes it feels like the whole thing is just never going to get off the ground.
If you don’t know a lot about us or the things we dream of, we’re dreaming of really big, beautiful things. Way more than just music. We love making music, but the things that we have in our hearts are way to big to be contained in just one art form. We dream of a thriving collective of people sharing art, of a thriving community, where everyone is welcomed and respected and contributes. A community where we can take off the masks and be real and honest, and maybe in the process heal and not feel so alone. It’s so big. And it grows so slowly.
I realized a few weeks ago what the root of this despair is, and I wanted to write something about it to remind myself when its familiar chorus gets stuck in my head. The thing about all this that we’re working on is that it’s so big that it just moves slowly. Glacially slow. All the best things in life though grow really slowly. Nature is replete with examples of exponential growth, where it looks like absolutely nothing is going on and then out of nowhere there is an explosion of life and growth.
Maybe you can relate. A creative project that just seems like it’s going nowhere. A business you’re trying to grow. Fitness goals that you’re trying to reach. Kids you’re trying to raise. You toil from sun up to sun down and it looks like the needle hasn’t budged at all. And that’s really discouraging. What are we putting in all this effort for if we’re not making progress?
I think our problem here is that our timeline is just too short. One of my favorite quotes is “most people overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.” I feel the weight of that constantly. Slowly but patiently investing in something pays off so largely in the long run, but we’re so worried about making progress today that we get discouraged and want to quit. Compound interest doesn’t just apply to retirement accounts.
The last few days have been an absolute struggle to just keep going. Between trying to get two businesses to grow, to grow our music and our audience, working on a full length album, keeping up with our personal health and family health, it’s exhausting. Some days just feel like too much.
Sometimes I look around and see everyone around me with fancier cars than I have, nicer looking clothes and gadgets, have their shit together, have already paid their taxes and have all their laundry put away and dishes cleaned, while I sit on my little pile of dirt, covered in mud, and look at the patch of land that hasn’t done a damn thing all week. Often it feels like the people around me are in need of food and all I can do is sit there and point at the sprouts that have only just now broken through the ground.
I need to zoom out my timeline. I’m looking too closely.
Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to grow a forest of redwoods; these massive, magnificent, sturdy trees that exist for hundreds and hundreds of years. And I’m reminded that things of that magnitude and longevity don’t grow overnight. Weeds grow overnight. And then they die. They’re so transient. These massive giants take decades to make any real progress. But we’re not in the business of growing weeds. We want to grow redwoods, things that will last and withstand the test of time. And that means that from day to day, despite weathering the lightning and hail, the cold and the wind, it doesn’t look like much is happening. But the next year it’s a little bigger. The next decade it’s noticeably sturdier. The next century it’s massive and nearly indestructible. We don’t want to grow weeds. When we’re dealing with such massive things, any daily, monthly or even yearly progress is really hard to measure. Keep showing up. Keep pressing on. Keep toiling. Fortunes aren’t built overnight. Vibrant, thriving communities aren’t built overnight. There’s no such thing as an “overnight sensation”. There is only steady, consistent pressing in, until somewhere, out of nowhere, growth and new life burst forth seemingly out of nowhere.
Imagine if we were actually growing a forest of redwoods, these massive, gigantic trees. We would toil day in and day out, and wouldn’t really see any changes in the course of our days, or months, or maybe even years. But our children would. Their children would. The choices we make, the courses we take today, don’t only impact our lives. They impact our kids and their friends, and their kids even further down the road.
Keep showing up. Keep pressing on. Keep toiling.
Toiling with you,