“Down upon the canvas, working meal to meal,
Waiting for a chance to pick your orange field…
See the forest there in every seed,
Angels in the marble waiting to be freed, just need love. “
“Was it worth it?” The hopefulness of a positive answer was apparent in the young girl’s eyes. It caused the older woman to hesitate for a moment, she wanted to meet that hope with its equal response, but she knew truth was required – indeed expected – so she shifted slightly in her chair and offered an honest, if vague, answer: “It was in most ways, yes. Pursuing my passion and reaching the goal I set for myself is an accomplishment I own with deep satisfaction. The cost was high, however.”
“But was the cost worth it? It had to be hard.” The girl pushed, she needed details. She was willing to take the jump, give up every thing to pursue her passion, but she had to know if the risk was worth the taking.
“Painful. It was fucking painful.” That was the honest, crass truth of it but to blurt it out would terrify her inquirer and she knew this was a critical moment for the girl. So the older woman took a minute to deal with emotions that were always just below the surface in order to give a more measured response. Like a nagging knee injury acquired during football days, the pain left its mark on her soul.
Pain from loneliness. There is no other kind of loneliness, she thought, than having to believe in yourself implicitly and exclusively. Only you can see the goal; there are no lights to help you find your way. And you can’t waiver: people are watching, they’re waiting to say “I knew you’d fail.” Or they’re secretly wanting to see you succeed because they want to take their own risk, they need to know it can be done.
There’s pain from sacrifice. You can seem like an asshole sometimes for having on the blinders required to realize your goal. Material wants and personal needs are given up freely, like trinkets, at the beginning of the journey – you know you’ll miss them, you won’t know the permanent effect of their absence until you’re so far down the path the only way out is to finish the course.
There’s pain from terror. To sacrifice security for the sake of the thing brings upon a person a kind of fear that needs constant minding. It can drown out the voices of the next story or darken the vision of the next painting. It can physically paralyze you if you aren’t careful. So you must always be careful.
There’s pain from pretending. You have to hold your head high and have belief in your goal on days when you forgot why it mattered in the first place. You have to invoke a confidence in your voice, even when terror sits inside your belly; you’ll feel like a fake and a fraud and a poser. You can’t let them see it.
There’s pain in the discipline. To shut out the naysayers, ignore your own doubts, and stay focused when you’re bleeding and exhausted requires discipline upon a mind that begs, just once, for a reprieve. You can never let up and you somehow kill a part of yourself in the process. It’s fucking painful.
The old woman gave a warm smile towards the young girl, she employed that steel-like discipline to keep her voice even, her tears in check.
“It’s true that the struggle to get here has been more painful than I could’ve have bargained, more difficult than I anticipated. But I accomplished what I believed that I was born to do and followed my passion. I won’t deny that the cost was exorbitant, yet I’m certain I would surely take the risk again.”
The young woman weighed the words, ignored the pain she detected in the voice despite the effort to hide it, and made the commitment at that moment to take the risk and pursue her passion. She turned to lighter chit chat, then gradually, quietly left the presence of the old woman with the affirmation she sought. Once alone, the elder wrapped her arms around herself and allowed familiar, painful, tears to flow.
The tears took only a few moments to cool upon her aged cheeks; the sensation woke her from the dream. She stayed still, keeping her eyes closed in an effort to linger in its affect: She was so full of life when she was younger! She acted like a barely domesticated animal whose wild instinct lie just underneath the surface. Those eyes were so piercing! They weren’t as bright now, she thought. The price she paid to meet the cost of pursuing her goals had dulled them slightly but she knew they now also possessed a knowing, quiet aptitude that few acquire. “Yes,” she admitted as she rose from her nap, “I could never have forgiven my self if I hadn’t taken the risk to follow my passion. Even if the cost was excruciating.”
Author’s Note: On rare occasion, the right song comes along at the right moment in life and gets a girl over a challenging bump – uh, ginormous mountain. I was working with the idea of this piece when I happened upon Coldplay’s ‘Up and Up’ from their latest album. The words and music cut to the deepest part of this writer and are a soothing salve to the pain of sacrifice. Go listen to the song kids, and while you do, promise yourself you’ll never back down from pursuing your passion. Frankie