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!
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
Here’s what’s next for me:
Be with people.
Take in this moment.
And lastly, slay several mutant dust bunnies that have been partying in the corners of my home (with a carrot sword!).
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.