I envied my middle school ceramics classmates as they constructed flawless tea candle holders and Christmas-tree shaped coasters. Their projects were carefully put together, whereas I was hasty and ended up with jagged sculptures covered in fibers and dried clay particles.
That hastiness in which I complete my personal projects has plagued the work I have done on my motorcycles and the furniture I have restored. It can be problematic for folks like me—us serial project-taker-uppers. I’ve considered it a flaw of mine for years.
It’s the reason why my Honda CM400 still doesn’t idle right, or the hairpin legs on my desk are crude. I don’t get caught up in the details, and my projects are never quite like I pictured them in my head. Rather than strategically gauging the size, proximity and composition of the proverbial stepping stone ahead of me, I am tearing forward through the weeds—through the muck and the dark out of a persistent nagging to reach my arrival.
But I’m convinced had I quit all production to agonize over every square inch of my motorcycle, I would have never got it running. If I would have refused to build my desk until I found the perfect hardware, I would still be sitting on the ground.
I’m constantly learning that the arrivals I’m hunting down—the distant specks of light on the horizon—are never what I originally hope for, and there is little that perfectionism could have done to solve it. I am always going to find dried crud on the bottom of my bike’s motor, or realize that I had actually been happy all along.
Sometimes we have to be okay with the ugliness of our work when we see it up-close. After all, the things we cherish most in life are leaky, shoddy and dysfunctional. That’s one of many reasons why I married my wife: she balances out my hastiness, and reminds me to stop and savor the good stuff that makes up each day.
For those who can never seem to tear your eyes from the horizon, I wouldn’t tell you to stop for a minute. Rather, surround yourself with people who ground you, and keep thrashing through that muck and night. It’s where we learn the most—us horizon hunters.