Giving It Up.

What are you willing to give up to have what you really want? 

It was late. Sitting at the dining room table on Wednesday night, working hard on this book, my ears perked up when I heard Elizabeth Gilbert tell Pete Holmes this searingly important question she was once asked by an older writer. She was talking about this sort of underground expectation that writers tend to have, where we wistfully dream of someone coming in and taking care of “all the bullshit of life” so we have the time and room we need to create. I kind of laughed to myself, because I totally used to have that expectation, too, especially when I was on deadline…that someone would just swoop in with a load of groceries and cleaning supplies and insist on paying all my bills and answering all my emails and doing a few loads of my laundry and will also maybe, you know, just wash my hair for me and spoon feed me breakfast while I sat and slogged away at the finishing touches of my book.

This past August, though, I learned just how much “bullshit of life” was really not vital to my existence when it came to really honing in on creating something. Sitting at my desk at 4:30 in the morning, staring with bleary eyes at my laptop, I thought about a webinar I had attended a handful of years ago that was hosted by Ash Ambridge. During the webinar, Ash had made one of those off-hand comments that you somehow just never forget… she told us about getting up at 5:30 a.m. and working all day until 3:30 a.m. to finish a project for a client, “because that’s what you do when you want something.” I remember sort of staring at her with my mouth slightly open, thinking about how I hadn’t ever really had a work experience that I cared about so much that I would willingly sacrifice a good night’s sleep for it (I love sleep. I would marry my bed if I could). But now I knew exactly what she was talking about. And instead of being miserable about it, I had never felt more energized. I looked forward to those all-nighters of slogging away on this book that I loved so much and couldn’t wait to share with the world.

And it taught me something about myself, which was this: If I really wanted something, I really would work hard to get it. Before, I had always kind of publicly made fun of and privately despaired my sort of lazy and instant-gratification tendencies…this sort of “haha, I want ____ (insert success, riches, accomplishment, etc,) but only if I can get it while also watching Real Housewives and taking naps.” I had sort of a good work ethic when I was reaching for an A or trying to get promoted as a behavioral therapist or writing my first book, but if something a little more tempting and fun and distracting came along, I was also totally okay with giving myself permission to shove off the thing I was working on in order to spend that time playing. But this summer, all of that changed. I don’t know what took me so long, to finally hone in on the singular thing I really wanted to do above all other things, but I guess the point is that I now know what I really want, and I’m willing to work as hard as I have to to get it.

And there’s a lot I’ve been willing to give up for it. I’m willing to give up sleep. I’m willing to give up going out on Friday nights. I’m willing to give up working out (LOL/JK, I’m always willing to give that up for anything). I’m willing to give up dating for a year or two, because I know myself enough to know that I do not get anything done when I’m amped up on someone new. Giving up the favorite daily pastime of binge-watching a TV series is actually a little harder, but I compromise and use 15 minutes of Hulu as a reward (lookit me, all self-disciplined!). Money and pride…a couple weeks ago I was sort of whining about being poor to my pal Dave, and he just shrugged his shoulders and was like, “Dude. You wanted to be a writer. This is the life that comes with it.” Which is totally true (and there is something to be said for those close to you who also totally get that). I have a lil’ job on the side that pays the rent, but the reality of my life right now is I know that in order to do fun things, I have to sell books. If I’m not selling books, I’m not doing fun things. Which is usually okay, because I have lots’o faith that if I keep working hard that will change and it’ll all eventually be worth it, but sometimes it gives you lots of feelz right in the ol’ pride space about sharing and support and selling and self-promo’ing and this is all stuff we can talk about but let’s do it later ’cause it’s Friday so let’s party okay cool great thanks you’re cute.

Yet in hearing Gilbert pose the above question, I realized that I’m willing to give up those things temporarily. Like, I’m okay with sacrificing a hot make-out sesh here and there now, but only because it’ll lend me the focus to get to where I want to be so I can have plenty of time to make out later. And I’m willing to give up lux cash flow now, but only because I know I’m actively working to produce stuff that will make me money later. Y’know? And maybe the question is really just meant to illustrate what it is that you should be willing to sacrifice in the short-term to get what you really want long-term, but it also got me thinking…what is it that I would be willing to give up forever in order to have what I really want?

The truth is, I don’t know. I want everything I want. And I’m kind of just sitting here, staring out the window at the trees and the grey sky and trying to come up with an answer, but I just don’t think I have it yet.

Do you? Do you know what you’re willing to give up forever to have what you really want?

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About Amber L.

Hi! I'm Amber. I've been telling stories with books and blogs since 2004. I also spent 10 years working as a behavior therapist, which I now put to proper use by publishing thought pieces and dissertations on '80s pop music and the defining TV shows of our current times ('The Bachelor', 'Vanderpump Rules', etc). I can also be credited with single-handedly ruining the city of Portland, OR just by moving here.

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