“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best,” Oscar Wilde
In ‘The Well Dressed Man with a Beard,’ Wallace Stevens posed that the mind could never be satisfied. The poem is complex and holds more than one aporia; nonetheless, it can be read as a poem about hope – hope for that final, ever unreachable, intangible, ‘yes.’
What interests me is not our propensity to strive despite being repeatedly knocked back, to reach for that ultimate ‘yes,’ but that the ‘yes’ never holds the finality we expect it to. We have a tendency to believe that our successes amount to very little. As human beings, we are rarely comfortable with our current and present level of achievement. Success, in whatever fashion, is idealised, sought and fought for, only to be replaced with the next yearning or goal once whatever we wanted has eventually been obtained.
Happiness, however, is ultimately an internal state rather than anything physical or external. Only by sitting back and enjoying our journey, rather than focussing solely on the final destination, can we experience true contentedness.
A couple of days ago, I was worrying about not being where I wanted to be, not having achieved as much as I would have liked, and so on. I was worrying that my work wasn’t good enough, that my children’s book wouldn’t sell and that I wouldn’t find a publisher for my novel, Quiet Bones. Then it dawned on me that I’d have chewed off my own arm (figuratively!) to be in the position I am now, only a year ago. Only recently, I have won first place prize in the Terry Hetherington Young Writer’s Award, third place in the Robin Reeves Award for Young Writers, completed a novel, and released my very own children’s book, Percy the Pompom Bear.
In our hurry to race towards the end goal, we lose sight of how much we’ve actually achieved.