Chasing The Carrot Of Tomorrow

{ 58 comments }

Have you ever noticed that people are always asking, ‘What’s next?’

Perhaps you fall in love, and suddenly people are asking ‘When are you getting married?’ Maybe you get married, and then, ‘When are you buying a house?’ You decide to buy a house, and then it’s ‘When are you having a baby?’ You have a baby, and the question becomes ‘When will baby have a little brother or sister?’

Since I’ve sold my book, people have begun to ask ‘What will your next book be?’ Each time the question comes, I feel a tickle of anxiety developing in my gut. But then I remember that I don’t have to write another book, nor do I have to get married, or buy a house, or have two kids.

Society puts unrelenting pressure on us to be always on the run, chasing one goal or another. ‘What are you working on? Where are you going? What’s next for you? Where is your carrot? Why don’t you have a carrot? Here, take my carrot.’ It’s part of the human tendency to compartmentalize everyone and everything. It comes from a need to understand, as well as a desire to embed our own values in others.

If you manage to catch the elusive carrot, this pressure to keep shuffling forward may prevent you taking a single lick of your glorious prize. ‘Great work! But what’s next?’ We so quickly become obsessed with what’s next for ourselves and for others: a bigger goal, a shiner prize, a newer, brighter, better, happier, more streamlined future … now with 20% more!  

It’s stupid.

If we let ourselves get caught up in other people’s expectations, then today can easily be lost to grandiose fantasies of tomorrow. Tomorrow will be better than today, we tell ourselves. Tomorrow, I’ll relax. I’ll indulge. I’ll live. Because tomorrow, when I reach that carrot, I’ll have more time, more happiness, and more of everything that’s good. 

It’s a flawed way of thinking, because that’s not how it happens.

My book deals are amazing, but my elation has been offset by the fact that my dad is battling stage four cancer. The good news is lifting me up to the sky; while the bad news tugs me back down. I’m hovering in a realm that’s brand new to me, and I’m seeing life for what it is: as glorious as it is tragic, as shiny as it is dull, as ugly as it is beautiful. Life has a way of balancing itself out, and there is no perfect, trouble-free tomorrow. That’s a fantasy.

Don’t let other people’s expectations push you towards that fantasy.

Today is real, though, and it’s awfully precious.

So take your carrot, dip it in some aioli, and savour every last bite. You may as well enjoy it now. If people try to pressure you, tell them to go suck a bag of dicks carrots.

Here’s what’s next for me:

Recharge.

Read.

Play.

Nap.

Be with people.

Take in this moment.

Feel sad.

Laugh.

And lastly, slay several mutant dust bunnies that have been partying in the corners of my home (with a carrot sword!).

Leave a Comment

  • Robert December 2, 2011, 2:29 pm

    Great read. For me, it’s about living each day true to myself and doing what makes me happy in that moment. You never know what lies ahead or what tomorrow will bring. You have to enjoy where you are in life and all your accomplishments that brought you to that point in time. Sorry to read about your father. I wish him the best and a speedy recovery.

    BTW, awesome dust bunny!

    Cheers,

    Robert
    http://www.AnotherTraveler.com

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 10:43 am

      Thanks, Robert.
      I wish I could claim that dust bunny as my own, but this one is from a stock library. Unfortunately, my dust bunnies are not quite that bunny shaped. A shame, really.

      Reply
  • Jessica December 2, 2011, 2:41 pm

    Great post, Torre. I was thinking along very similar lines – of course with everyone writing goals for the new year, it’s easy to get caught up in the “What will I do NOW?!” kind of mindset.

    Congrats again on your book deals, and I’ll be sure to send positive thoughts to you and your family in dealing with your dad’s cancer. I think reading, napping, and playing are excellent next steps!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 10:45 am

      Thank you, Jessica. I’ll snap up all of those positive thoughts and put them to good use. x

      Reply
  • David W December 2, 2011, 5:15 pm

    You nailed it. I’m amazed that people have such a desire to always see whats next and push for tomorrow when right now is the most precious time we’ve got.

    Enjoy it. You’ve earned it. What’s next will happen because you make good things happen.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 10:48 am

      God forbid you should stop, relax and enjoy yourself a little! Thanks for your kind words.

      Reply
  • Wanda St.Hilaire December 2, 2011, 5:57 pm

    Amen sister. After I launched The Cuban Chronicles, I was inundated with the questions: What’s your next book about? When will it be out? Little did these people know I had just begun to savor the journey of the first memoir.

    Last year, eight months after my launch, while I was finding my stride with my book (and happily flowing along) I was diagnosed with breast cancer after a 20-year triumph over the disease. As soon as treatments were over, it was: What are you going to do now? How about recuperate, rejuvenate and rejoice?

    I can relate.

    I wish your dad the best in his challenge. And may you always stick to your own beautiful values.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 10:51 am

      Your story gave me tingles, Wanda. Recuperate, rejuvenate and rejoice – words to live by. I hope you’re still living up all those lovely R words, and that you continue to do so for a long time.

      Reply
  • Hannah December 2, 2011, 6:26 pm

    Hi Torre, I adore this post – so eloquent and resonant. You write with such enchanting insight. I am a huge fan of your blog, which I came across through Almost Fearless. I also purchased your book through them and loved reading it so much; I was bereft when I finished it. I wish you all the luck in the world in munching on those future carrots of yours, and sincerely hope your dad makes a successful recovery. Best wishes x

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 10:54 am

      Thank you for your lovely message, Hannah. I’m so glad you got a chance to read the book before I took it off the market!

      Reply
  • Mikeachim December 2, 2011, 7:08 pm

    Unacceptable. Obviously. You’ve given us a big carrot, shaped like nothing we’ve ever seen, we’ve bitten into it and enjoyed it immensely (“so crunchy! So ORANGE!!”) and then, after a while, with one final bite, we were catapulted into an uncrunchy, non-orange post-carrot world.
    So we need another carrot.
    Or a bag of carrots.

    Look, if Harlequin can release something new every week, you can. You’ve raised expectations, you’ve acquired a passionate following, and now we’re taking ownership. Dance, chile’! Dance your writery dance for us! We’re bored, so amuse us with your pen!

    ….

    *silence*

    …..

    *silence lengthens*

    Well. This is *rubbish*. It’s almost like *you’re* in charge, free to make your life as you wish. It’s almost like, and I shudder to say this, it’s almost like you know what’s good for you. Like you’re determined to stay yourself, in the face of overwhelming superficializing pressures, and keep the core of you fully, completely You. Which suggests you actually like who you’ve become!

    Dear god, that’s so….UNMODERN.

    ….

    [/ArchedEyebrow]

    You remain one of the sanest Exceptionally Talented Writers I know. And I know a few. Most are completely round the hat-rack, so I’m not paying you much of a compliment there, if “sane” is indeed a compliment when applied to a creative artist, I’m not so sure.

    But really, I think you’re ace. Keep doing that. And my fingers, toes and all other extremities are crossed for your dad. I hope time is as kind to him as it should be. (If he’s anything like his daughter, he’s a damn fine chap indeed).

    And thank you for the carrot you’ve already given us.

    It’s helping some of us see in the dark.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:11 am

      Mike, thank you for giving me some abdominal crunching laughter. Rather than talk about carrots (and likely get myself buried in a crude innuendo), I’m just going to say that I can’t wait to read YOUR book. Your words are always an absolute joy to read. So dance, chile’! Dance your writery dance for us! (What do you think a writery dance would look like? Maybe like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xi4O1yi6b0 )

      Reply
  • Shawndra Russell December 2, 2011, 7:54 pm

    I despise the “what’s next?” question and am working on a book about this topic. We are all in a mad rush to nowhere! It reminds me about the Mexican fisherman parable. Next time someone asks the next book question, stick’em in the eye with your freakin’ carrot!

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:20 am

      Sounds like a good book. Our culture is a bit obsessed with the ‘what’s next?’ question. Why?! Explain it for me in your book, Shawndra! Change the world with your words, and please bring back the siesta.

      Reply
  • Tatiana December 2, 2011, 9:55 pm

    This is funny because I was eating carrots yesterday! Hah. I tried them with peanut butter. It was gross.

    Anyway.

    I think, for the most part, people fear stillness. The wondering of “what’s next” is, I think, in some part due to adrenaline. If we’re not moving, then that means we’re not accomplishing anything. We see this in blog posts about jobs, and if you’re standing still in your job, then you need to leave or shake things up. We’re encouraged in other facets of our lives to be more “proactive” in trying to constantly moving forward, constantly moving, constantly DOING.

    Maybe this is an overwhelmingly American ethic. Many people talk about doing more, being bigger and better and more awesome than who you were yesterday or even a moment ago.

    Few people are discussing stillness. Contemplating. Silent joy. The act of doing nothing can be just as good – and healthy – has moving along. I think it takes a lot of self-introspection to know when it’s time to move and when it’s time to meditate. Resting is good. Constantly moving in fear of being stagnant can become a mind killer.

    Reply
  • Christy @ Ordinary Traveler December 2, 2011, 10:37 pm

    So, what’s next, Torre? I love Mike’s comment and I love this post.

    Reply
  • wishy December 2, 2011, 10:39 pm

    if you manage to grab the carrot, whats the point in grabbing another one, if you’ve already become full and satisfied. Better to wait for the hunger to grow again, also giving the carrot patch you’ve raided, time to rejuvinate, and grow a brand new shiny carrot!

    ~”A good traveler has no fixed plans
    and is not intent upon arriving.
    A good artist lets his intuition
    lead him wherever it wants.
    A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
    and keeps his mind open to what is.” ~ Lao-Tzu

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:30 am

      Love it. Wise words. I’ll be referring back to this.

      Reply
  • KC December 2, 2011, 11:38 pm

    What a timely post for me! And Tatiana, your response really resonated with me. This is an issue I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

    Two days ago I was filling out my “self-assessment” form for our yearly review (we were recently taken over by a big US company so this is now a lot more involved than it was in the past). I breezed through the first bit where I had to list all my achievements and was feeling quite proud of myself. However, the second bit involved stating my goals for the next year, as well as my strengths and weaknesses. I started to feel a bit despondent. I realised that my goal is to keep doing what I’m doing so that I can make enough money to enjoy life outside work. And my strengths and weaknesses haven’t changed one bit in the 12 years I have been working in this field (strengths are strong analytical skills and motivation and ability to produce high quality work; weaknesses are lack of confidence and verbal communication skills in dealing with clients). But I know that when I sit down with my Manager in a couple of weeks I am going to have the same old conversation about what I need to do to “move forward” (surely this has replaced “journey” as the most overused word/phrase) and how I have to work on my “weaknesses”. And then it struck me: why do I have to work on these? Why can’t they just accept that this is my personality type and start to use my strengths to their advantage and stop trying to force me down a career path that I am clearly not suited to? Why do I constantly have to strive to be something I’m not? I’m in my mid 40s and feel great about who I am. I’m tired of trying to change to meet someone else’s expectation of who I should be.

    Phew – thanks for letting me have a rant! It’s good to know other people feel similar things to me.

    Btw, love the blog! I came across it a couple of weeks ago via a newspaper article. Hope you get some time to enjoy your success and best wishes to your Dad.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:43 am

      Hey KC. Just curious: which newspaper pointed you to my site?

      Obviously your boss is very happy with you if you’ve been there for 12 years, and who doesn’t want an employee who has strong analytical skills, motivation and an ability to produce high quality work?! It seems to me that this review process is a pointless procedure. We all have ‘weaknesses,’ and many of them are traits we’ll carry with us our entire lives. Often it’s your weaknesses that create your strengths. My ‘weakness’ is that I’m introverted (which some would call shy), but it makes me creative and hard working. If you took away personal weaknesses, perhaps the strengths would disappear too?

      In truth, most of us don’t have enough perspective on ourselves to know what our true weaknesses are. And if you do happen to know what your most vulnerable fault is, you wouldn’t admit it to your best friend, let alone your employer! If an employer asks, don’t we all just give a neutral answer designed to make us look good?

      If you’re happy with the position you’re in, stay there! You have my approval. :)

      Reply
      • KC December 6, 2011, 7:30 am

        I read it on a Saturday in Castlemaine (we were on a Victorian road trip at the time) so I think it was in The Age arts section. It’s called Spectrum in the SMH; not sure if is called same down there. I think it was a short piece in the book section about your whirlwind publishing deal.

        Reply
  • angela deal meanix December 3, 2011, 3:58 am

    I am so glad I came across your blog … you are just what I need right now. Real. And … following your heart and making your life happen. Kudos and thanks for sharing your honest thoughts. I love it. I am sorry for your father. Be present and cry a lot … that’s what I did with my brother.
    ~angela

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:46 am

      Sorry to hear about your brother, Angela. Thanks for stopping by. I just checked out your site – your artwork is stunning!

      Reply
      • Angela December 12, 2011, 2:49 pm

        Thanks Torre ~ hope all is going well.

        Reply
  • Therese December 3, 2011, 5:29 am

    Just one word:

    YES!

    Reply
  • Sabrina at MyMiBoSo December 3, 2011, 5:30 am

    Until I’ve trained my friends and family to stop asking what’s next I’ve learned (somewhat successfully) to selectively filter it out when they ask. ;)

    Live for the now – it’s all that’s real.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:48 am

      You could try Schmackos on your family and friends. Those beefy strips work wonders for training my dog. :)

      Reply
  • Denise December 3, 2011, 10:49 am

    My question to you would have simply been IF you want to write more, not WHAT you’ll right next, but of course, you’d be mad after all this hard work to immediately rush into another project. Heck, I’d feel smug for a lifetime if I managed to do what you did even with just one book.
    One another note, my heart goes out to you and your sadness about your father. You captured it very well when you write that life is as tragic as it is beautiful.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:53 am

      Thank you, Denise. I definitely do want to write more. Writing makes me happy. But a book project becomes very, very obsessive, so I need a break before I go there again. I’ve neglected so many things during this process, telling myself, “When I finish the book, I will (insert admin / healthcare / mental well-being / eating / socializing / etc).” Well … that time has finally come, and I have a lot of tasks crammed between those parenthesis to catch up on! I’m a binge writer, it seems.

      Reply
  • Claire December 3, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I would no sooner be back from one trip, before the questions began about my next trip.
    People began asking me ONE week after I got married when I was going to start having kids. I considered punching them in the nose. It never let up either, and now that I am actually pregnant, that is apparently the only thing that matters in my life and I have to hear all the horror stories of childbirth and delivery.
    I don’t know what I will do if they start asking when the 2nd one is coming. I can barely get my head around this one.
    In the meantime, I have made a conscious decision to almost never ask anybody these same questions. I know that (most) people are well-meaning, but at some point, yes, let’s just be STILL and savor the present.
    Thanks for a great post.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 11:57 am

      Congratulations! Lap up the present – it must be a wonderful, scary, bizarre time, and it’s not an adventure you want to miss by being too absorbed with what’s next. You’re hearing horror stories of childbirth? What is wrong with people? I believe it’s called anxiety transference.

      Reply
  • Sarahsomewhere December 4, 2011, 11:55 am

    Word.

    Reply
  • ayngelina December 4, 2011, 2:29 pm

    I am so with you on this one. People keep asking me to define what’s next and I have no idea. But it’s really unsettling for people when you tell them you can only plan 3 months at a time and then every once in a while you hear someone say – that’s amazing I would love to be that way.

    Reply
    • Torre DeRoche December 5, 2011, 12:03 pm

      Have you ever done the Myer Briggs test? If you’re a J (judging) then you’ll be more inclined to plan. If you’re a P (perceiving) then you’re comfortable with open plans and improvising. I’m a P, and I don’t always connect with people who are always planning. (Why? You’re killing the fun!) But they don’t get me either, and my lack of planning can make them very uncomfortable. Sometimes planners consider folks like us to be irresponsible or disorganized, not realizing that we carefully design it that way for maximum excitement!

      Reply
      • Larissa January 3, 2012, 8:26 am

        Wow, that last sentence….DEAD ON! Last year I didn’t plan anything further than a month in advance and I had probably the best year of my life. Thanks for affirming my beliefs in the most eloquent manner :)

        Reply
  • Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot December 5, 2011, 12:32 am

    Sounds good to me – apart from dad and the dust bunnies. Enjoy the moment:)

    Reply
  • Juniper December 5, 2011, 1:49 pm

    Thanks so much for this reminder about life. Sometimes what other’s expect or think we should be doing gets in the way of our own inner compass. : )

    Reply
  • Ian [EagerExistence] December 5, 2011, 3:56 pm

    Napping is always good. Since moving to Spain, I’ve fallen in love with the afternoon siesta. Just an hour or two. It does wonders.

    Reply
  • Mikki December 6, 2011, 3:45 am

    “Today is real, though, and it’s awfully precious. So take your carrot, dip it in some aioli, and savour every last bite.” – Love it! It’s funny that we have to keep reminding ourselves that we can make up the rules as we go and design our life any way we want.

    Reply
  • 50+ and on the Run December 6, 2011, 6:19 pm

    You got it girl! It took me a long time to finally be a rebellious teenager, and now I think I’ve regressed all the way back to a 4-year old…whenever someone tells me I “should” do something, my first thought is, “OK, but why?”

    Reply
  • Annie Andre December 7, 2011, 12:16 pm

    Here Here. I know all about chasing the carrot and trying to live up to societies expectation. I have to say though i enjoy looking for the next thing, next project. Not necessarily the carrot anymore. Sometimes it’s a zuchini, mushroom or celery root. But i always need to have some down time to digest it all before i go out in seek of new pursuits.
    ps
    congrats on your book deals. A friend of mine just self published a book called deadly remains and she is over the moon about it. It’s truly inspiring to see people succeed and even more so when you share your story with us.
    Thanks
    Annie

    Reply
  • Heather Sunseri December 7, 2011, 5:22 pm

    I can so relate to this, Torre. My mom is battling a tough illness, and there are days when I just have to shut out all those voices telling me to get in 1k words a day, finish editing that chapter, etc. and just visit with Mom, who loves company, or curl up with my kids and savor that which is so important in this world.

    Beautiful post, Torre. I pray peace and comfort for you and your father.

    Reply
  • Meg December 7, 2011, 10:46 pm

    It’s one of my biggest pet peeves. I wonder if it is people who are loving vicariously through you….. I don’t know. I can not tell you how tired I am off the “when are you getting married” question. It wasn’t even something I was concerned with until everyone was asking me about it. It starts to make you feel like you are doing something wrong. Enjoy your time. Leave the carrots for the bunnies!

    Reply
  • Skip December 9, 2011, 4:06 pm

    I dunno, Torre. Methinks you might be overly concerned about what people think and expect. I believe I asked you what was next and you didn’t respond. Actually, I didn’t really expect you to respond – it was just a casual question as I think most of these types of things are. In fact, I was glad that you didn’t respond. It told me that you are going to live your life and do what you do and it isn’t important to you that I know what your plans are (even if just relaxing and enjoying your life day by day).

    My siblings and parents stopped asking me a long time ago what my plans are because I always changed them. I’m a slight “P” but I tend to be impulsive and spontaneous. And if I get that question now, I just look them right in the eye and give ‘em a smile with a twinkle in my eye.

    I have tons of plans (including sailing the South Pacific as well as lying around listening to music, reading books and smiling). But it doesn’t matter to me whether my friends and family know them.

    Reply
  • Patricia Sands December 15, 2011, 12:05 am

    Good list, Torre! Stick to it … or not. Do what feels right for you and the ones you love and remember every day is a gift. Holiday hugs from Toronto.

    Reply
  • Kelsey December 15, 2011, 1:12 pm

    Great post, and one that I think a lot of people need to read. Americans spend so much of their time and energy thinking about the future that they end up neglecting the present. For several years post-college I did the same thing, and now, at 28, I look back at my mid-twenties and go “what the hell was I doing with myself??”

    Reply
  • Dan Collins December 18, 2011, 3:17 pm

    Once again Torre, amazing post! You always seem to nail it right on the head what I’m thinking. Keep up the good work! After reading it myself I’ve made people go out and buy your book as a Christmas present to themselves :-P

    Reply
  • Oriana January 6, 2012, 3:25 pm

    Great – and universally much needed – post. I wonder how it became so hard for us to live in the moment, after all it’s the only thing that makes sense. I’ll try my best to be less of a donkey this year (and, as we are at it, to kick my inner naysayer right where sun doesn’t shine)
    Thanks for sharing this (and the other insightful posts) and my best wishes to your dad.

    Reply
  • betina January 26, 2012, 6:42 pm

    Very true. This is also the mentality of always trying to go for improvement, as if people always think we have to be better. Ah, I can totally relate to this. I believe that we can never have it all..and the people who love us will always love us for who we are and not our potentials. Growth and change is a natural process, if we can’t enjoy the right here right now, I don’t think there’s much waiting for us to enjoy tomorrow. Love your post!

    Reply