Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rocky and milestones

Rocky, the 1976 movie about a small-time boxer who gets his big chance, is part of the Philadelphia experience. The city has a statue of Rocky. There’s a plaque in front of one of the cheese-steak places (Pat's) where Sylvester Stallone stood during the filming.  And even though Philadelphia boasts an impressive art museum, there are plenty of people to whom a run up the museum’s front steps (something Rocky does in the movie), is even more significant than anything inside the building. There’s even a book about people who run up the steps, and why they do it, and what it means to them. (And yes, I ran up the steps myself the first time I visited the museum, as a 17-year-old college freshman.)

All this is to explain why the song “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from Rocky, occasionally plays in my head. Writing a novel takes a long time; there aren’t many days where you get to type, “The End,” and sit back in satisfaction. And so, as with any endeavor that takes a long time--renovating a house, earning a college degree, growing a garden, training for a marathon--it’s important to recognize milestones along the way.

Rocky does his triumphant step-run and fist-raising not at the end of the movie's climactic fight, but after a good training session. He’s had a good day; he’s doing his best. He’s taking care of that day and letting the big picture take care of itself. I think that’s why people have found this movie so inspiring, and why nobody cares (or perhaps even remembers) that Rocky actually loses the big fight at the end. The official outcome of the fight doesn’t matter. Because everyone who sees the movie realizes that, in a bigger way, Rocky really wins.

Every day, I’m chipping away at a big project. Every day brings its own milestone. What are yours?

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