The Reward

I did not like artichoke hearts.

Yet when I was a little one, artichoke hearts, legumes, and wheat germ were staples in my house. My mother – a woman before her culinary time – drew inspiration from the garden-dirt-to-kitchen-table Moosewood Cookbook. I – a child of my American cheese time – wanted none of it.

“Three bites,” my parents would say at dinner. “Three more bites and dessert’s yours.”

I’d pinch my nose and power through to get to the sweet stuff.

The other day, I came across an interview with Chuck Palahniuk in The Talks.

“My writing teacher told me to always take your reward upfront,” the author from Pasco, Washington said. “The writing itself should be so extreme, so wild, and so much fun that it doesn’t matter whether or not you ever sell the book.”

Reading that, I realize I still have the idea that reward is on the other side of struggle. The whoopie pie after loathsome artichoke hearts, the free miles after overpriced flights, the weekend after a brutal week. Reward has to be earned.

I think it’s time to retire that idea. It holds us hostage to some later date, and strips this moment of its dignity.

Let’s take the reward upfront. Suck every drop of marrow out of the moment. Work and live in a way where the routine is so gratifying that it’s not one big struggle for weekends, free miles, or whoopie pies.

It’s not simply process over product. It’s reward as routine. And that’s some kind of sweet stuff.

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