I noticed this week as I started the new chapter that I've inadvertently crossed into Act II on the outline.
Weird how milestones sail past so quickly and without notice. And it's not like important end of Act stuff wasn't happening or anything, it's just that I was so wrapped up in the minutia of the book and life in general that I didn't think about it much as I pushed on through.
A huge number of personal milestones seem to happen that way, come to think of it.
When I turned 21, I completely failed to do the big awesome "hey guys, let's get black-out drunk now that I'm legal" thing. I wasn't really a drinker back then. That would come much later.
Instead I sparred with a friend, broke one of my toes on his shin, and then spent the rest of the evening watching anime because that was the sort of thing I would do on a Friday evening back then. As I recall, it was "Legend of the Over-fiend", which was edgy and slightly revolting back then, but I suppose after nineteen and a half years of cultural drift is now something toddlers watch on Sunday mornings when the babysitter can't be bothered to come over. As I recall, it had a Nazi rape machine in it, which you can probably buy in Toys 'R Us now.
Financial milestones are somewhat similar--I didn't celebrate the first time my net worth lost the minus in front of it, mostly because I didn't track such things then. I did celebrate getting out of debt. That was pretty cool. In typical fashion, I did everything backwards: I got out of debt and THEN started reading up on personal finance. Not exactly optimal. I didn't celebrate my net worth crossing into six figures, though, even though I was tracking my finances pretty closely by the time I hit that marker.
Milestones can be pretty arbitrary. Once you reach them, you find they're not as important or impressive as you might expect. Twenty-one was just another day. Getting out of debt was big, but the actual numbers behind it all, once you started digging, were not. Crossing into six figures of net worth felt just like crossing over from 94,000 to 94,0001. Small changes which go unnoticed on a personal time scale but only become important when viewed from a distance.
I've lost track of the number of times I've gone for a run and hit a bigger number than usual. You realize pretty quickly that the mile marker is just another patch of grass and the only reason a sound dings in the back of your head is because you make it so.
But milestones are important, I think. Find good ones and then celebrate them no matter how big or unimportant they are. On a day-to-day basis, I'm a little meh about them. But on the ten year view of your life, they work nicely into the narrative we all build out of our memories. It's important to have that little celebration, that ticker tape shower at the end of the marathon or what have you, to show you that you were there, that you did it. Even if you don't really feel like it's that important at the time.
I tend to build tiny little celebrations into things. Nothing huge, but little bits of mental calculus: if I do THAT, I get to do THIS. That kind of thing. First paycheck of new job? New painting for apartment. Pay off debt? Buy a gadget. Not only does it give you something to remember other than the slog, it also helps you pace the fun stuff in life.