When I was teaching writing I liked to do a lesson on setting goals. I would tell my students that the physical act of getting something down on paper makes their goals that much stronger.
We talked about short-term goals and long-term goals, career goals and personal goals. I was always interested in hearing the ambitions of these people who had traveled so far to improve their English. I already knew that they were dedicated, smart and motivated and they did not disappoint.
In turn I told them mine, not only because they needed an example, but because as they shared their secret hopes and dreams with me, it was only fair to share mine with them (and telling others about your goals holds you that much more accountable).
Many of my goals changed over the years, but one remained constant. That goal was to write a book. I wasn’t sure exactly how I would do this, seeing as how I wasn’t writing at the time, which is sort of an essential step in the process.
When my students asked why I wasn’t writing I gave the usual excuses about being too busy and not having enough time, thinking I wasn’t good enough (a common belief among many writers).
Then one of my students said something very simple. “Teacher, if you want to do it then do it, or it’s never going to happen.”
I told him that was very good advice.
I tried to think of the last time I’d pursued a goal with single-minded determination. I realized that most of my goals usually lacked commitment. In fact, the only thing that came to mind was when I was living in Japan and really really wanted an Ebi Fillet burger from McDonalds.
For those of you who don’t eat much sushi, ebi is Japanese for shrimp. An Ebi Fillet is like a Fish Fillet; plump delicious shrimps are covered in batter and deep-fried. They’re incredible and I really wish McDonalds would bring them out in Canada. (Although it’s probably for the best they don’t because another of my long-standing goals has been to lose five pounds).
Anyways, it was three in the morning, I was starving from dancing all night, and I may or may not have consumed a little alcohol that evening.
So I got on my bike and with deadly focus, rode to the 24-hour McDonalds. The farther I biked, the more my craving intensified. By the time I reached my destination I also may have been drooling.
There was just one problem: the McDonalds was closed.
Now I’m not a huge fan of McDonalds in general, but there is something comforting about seeing the golden arches in a foreign country, something that makes you feel you’re not so very far away from all that is familiar. North American crap food, it gets me every time.
Upon discovering that the doors were dead-bolted, tears of desperation sprang into my eyes. I wanted an Ebi freaking Fillet more than I’d wanted anything in my life. Not only to satisfy a physical hunger, but an emotional hunger. I wanted a taste of home. Then I noticed that the drive-thru was still open.
I wiped the saliva off my chin, pedalled my bike up to the window and gave it a loud knock.
The guy opened the window, a look of disbelief on his weary face. I smiled at him, in what I hoped was my most charming manner, and relayed my order. This might not seem that crazy in North America, but polite Japanese society does not believe in bending the rules. Not even in curving them just a little bit.
My smile must not have been that charming, because the man refused to serve me, no matter how much I begged and pleaded with him. Perhaps if I had spoken better Japanese I would have been able to convey my sense of desperation, however, no amount of convincing could make this steadfast rule-abiding employee give me that burger.
Frustrated, I scanned the parking lot, which was completely empty except for a lone white vehicle. I rode my bike over to the car and peered into the window. A man lay sleeping in the driver’s seat, fully reclined. I didn’t hesitate.
“Sumimasen!” (Excuse me/I’m sorry), I said loudly, knocking at his window. The man’s eyes flew open and he looked around wide-eyed, like a startled owl that didn’t know where it was.
He rolled down the window and the bewildered expression on his face only bolstered my confidence. After all, he didn’t seem upset that I’d interrupted his sleep. Through monosyllabic English, firm hand gestures and a few scattered words of Japanese, I tried to communicate that I wanted him to take me through the drive-thru.
He stared at me, utterly confused and said, “Waifu?” a Japanese word for wife.
I shrugged my shoulders, “Sure.” I put my bike down on the ground and got in the passenger side. Making insistent hand gestures I pointed at him, then me, then mimed driving around the building.
He turned on the car and kept mumbling “waifu” as we drove around and up to the drive-thru.
The window opened and I leaned forward in the seat with a big smile, giving the employee I’d been pleading with a cheery wave.
He looked at my hostage in the driver’s seat with an expression that said, “You know this crazy girl?”
The driver shrugged and I proceeded to order my Ebi Fillet combo, which ended up in my lap two minutes later. I thanked my enabler profusely, hopped out of his car and back onto my bike. It was a triumphant ride home in the warm night air, the fragrant smell of the food drifting up from my basket, my hair streaming behind me.
Now, normally I wouldn’t recommend hijacking strange men in deserted parking lots, however Japan is a very safe country and as mentioned earlier I may have not been completely sober. I was glad to come up with this memory. It showed that when I really put my mind to something I can accomplish it.
I didn’t take no for an answer and I was successful.
I think that when it comes to achieving goals, this is an important lesson: don’t give up and don’t take no for an answer. Especially when you’re the one who’s saying it.