Leaving Nothing Behind

This post is part three of a three-part series. You can read part one here and part two here.

Try to boil an ocean and you won’t have enough hot water for tea.

I spent most of my life demonstrating that simple truth, taking on one personal project after another. In October, 2015, I finally grew tired of stoking those metaphorical fires. I doused the flames, buried the embers, and set off on a six-month trek down a quiet stretch of beach.

I grew up along the way. I could finally see the harm I had done in trying to make every little thing part of something bigger. I realized how much we all need quiet and solitude, both around us and within. And I finally realized that, through everything, I had been doing my level best to cheat my way past the natural limits of my mortality.

“Nothing” turned out to be exactly what I needed.

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Empty Classroom

What Nothing Taught Me

This post is part two of a three-part series. You can read part one here.

In October 2015, after devoting almost forty years to a trove of personal ambitions, I stopped. I picked up an eraser and wiped my slate clean. For the first time in my life, I was officially doing nothing.

This couldn’t last. I waited for the sheer mass of my beloved ideas to draw me back into their orbit. Resisting that pull would exhaust me, I was sure of it. I braced myself for a long night of frustrated temptation and anxiety.

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Night Sky

Achieving Nothing

If you’re anything like me, you take on too many projects.

I’ve always done this. And when I say “always”, I’m not only referring to my adult, professional life. Since I was old enough to want to do anything at all, I’ve wanted to do too many things, and I’ve tried to do them all at once:

  • Learn to play guitar and start a band.
  • Write stories, novels, and screenplays.
  • Draw and make animated films.
  • Study science and mathematics.
  • Become an architect and design buildings.
  • Program computers and make video games.
  • Get married, raise a family.

You know. Learn Japanese, go live in Japan for a year or so. Climb Mount Fuji.

As a child, I was surrounded by love and encouragement. The adults in my life told me I could do anything I set my mind to, anything I wanted. I took their encouragement literally and without moderation.

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