Recently I found a 2020 photo of our backyard prior to our garden revamp. Crappy lawn, no plants, no wildlife.
Today, it’s a veritable jungle with birds flitting about and bees bumbling flower to flower. A complete transformation…thanks to untold hours spent working our butts off.
That got me thinking about before/afters from other projects. All required time, energy, and commitment. Some also required sweat and swearing at inanimate objects.
Eyeing the rearview mirror, they all feel worth it.
A few of them:
- Building out our empty Sprinter van into a mobile adventure rig.
- Starting a blog in 2013 at the start of our van trip, now up to 200 posts (plus another 100 newsletters to boot).
- Physical adventures like bike tours with Chelsea, mile by mile. In total, almost a year of fond (and hard!) memories of bicycle journeying together.
- Toiling away on a business that allows us lots of freedom.
- My studious phase the past two years: Learning to speak Italian. Hundreds of hours of piano practice. Notebooks full of drawings…
So many times where I was tired or unmotivated, but did it anyway. My current self thanks that tired-but-doing-it past self!
I see three common threads for all these before/afters:
1. They involved creating something via perseverance and effort (memories included) vs. one-off enjoyment.
2. All of them are experiences or facilitate future experiences (e.g. van trips, hanging in our garden, playing music).
3. All involved building a skill.
Also, in no way were they fun all the time. Sifting rocks from free top soil during our garden project comes to mind…sigh.
All these goals took on a life of their own. I didn’t intend to befriend blog readers or fall in love with piano and bikepacking… It’s all blossomed from having enough fun (and being stubborn) long enough to create a habit.
A reminder that we often become passionate about something after we’ve invested energy in it.
Similar to asking, “what are the decisions that most positively affected my life,” I think looking at the traits of our most satisfying before and afters is a useful lens for guiding our lives.
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