When did I reach the point of my life where I stopped caring about the future and only worried about the present?
Rhetorical question obviously, especially since I might be the only one in the world who could possibly answer it. I’ve never been one to have a hardcore “life plan” for myself, but up until a couple of years ago I always had at least a few things that I wanted to accomplish in the not-so-distant future. They ranged in size and subject, not to mention feasibility, but they were always there….at least in the back of my mind.
Some examples, beginning with the earliest I can remember:
- I wanted to have a girlfriend–1993-1997
- I wanted to get into a decent college–1993-1999
- I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer–1995-2001
- I wanted to fly on an airplane–1993-1999 (not joking…I didn’t go on my first flight until I was 19)
- I wanted to live or work in New York City–1995-2008
- I wanted to go to graduate school–2002-2003
- I wanted to travel out of the United States–2001-2006
- I wanted to get married–2004-2007
- I wanted to get a PhD–2003-2008
- I wanted to own a home–2008-2008
- I wanted to have a child–2009-2010
- I wanted to write a book–2010-2011
As you can no doubt tell, these are all general “life goals.” They are big deals and I imagine most people share some (if not all) of them too. I was lucky enough to accomplish most of them, but in doing so I’ve found that I no longer really aspire for anything tangible. I don’t have any other life goals that would rival those past ones. Why? I tell myself it has to do with the stress of the moment and nothing more. For instance, here would be the things I want to “accomplish” in my life right now:
- Make more money
- Get out of debt (by making more money)
- Save for Casey’s future (by making more money)
- Sell my condo and live somewhere more affordable
- Get a car with better gas mileage
Catch a theme in there? When did I become like this? I’ll admit again I was never the most pie in the sky person when it came to future goals, but this is ridiculous. Of course it is practical to want to save, and make money, and get out of debt, but these are things that dominate my consciousness to the point that almost nothing else can come in. I’m deteriorating. To put it eloquently, it fucking sucks.
The problem is, whenever I try to get beyond my stressors and come up with some better plans for the future, I generally only get as far as the most initial stages of thought before something inevitably comes along and smacks me back to reality.
Here’s an example. When I was a senior in college a couple of my roommates and I were really into movies. Not just new releases, but the classics. One of my roommates had the idea to put of the AFI Top 100 Movies of All-Time list on our living room wall and watch as many as he could throughout the year. For no reason other than because it seemed like a cool thing to do. I joined in when I could, and had a great time in doing so. About a month ago I remembered how much fun it was and decided to try it again, only this time with a more regimented and scheduled approach (for obvious reasons). I looked up the newest list, downloaded as many movies as I could from #100 on up, and decided that I would watch at least one movie a week for as long as it took until the list was complete. One a week–two to three hours max. No problem, right? Even in my crazy life I should be able to pull that one off, right? Wrong. Haven’t even started yet, despite the fact that the movies are right there in my queue, ready to go. Pathetic.
The funny thing is, I have never felt old a day in my life until now. Despite the fact that I’ve been actually young so far, I’ve always looked even younger than my age. Baby face syndrome I suppose. But regardless of how I look now (and trust me, I feel like I look decades older than I used to), I am really starting to fear the stagnancy that goes along with forgetting to improve myself. And that means having goals. Future goals. Big deal goals.
So what now? Where do I want to be in five years? What do I want that involves something other than dollars and cents? If I had to come up with a list right now, I’m pretty sure it would be much weirder than my first one. But the hell with it, why not give it a shot:
- Become more financially stable (sorry)
- Stop being so dependent on my obsessions (and compulsions)
- Learn to just be, and not always do
- Be a better role model for Casey by not sweating the truly small stuff
- Continue to be ambitious at work
- Write, and then write more
- Read, and then read more
- Travel again, with and without family and friends
- Be experimental, and don’t fear looking stupid in doing so
- Forgive the past, even if I don’t know exactly what I’m forgiving (thank you)
- Smile when I’m happy
- Learn to accept that pain will exist in life
- Don’t try to fix everything, especially that which cannot be fixed (by me)
- Take (calculated) risks
- Don’t become bitter
- Love as much as possible
Cheesy? Trite? Couldn’t care less. Too much of my life, including the years I’ve spent writing here, have been based almost entirely about trying to please. And something I’ve realized lately is that trying to please can itself be an incredible selfish pursuit. If I try to make people happy because it makes me happy, or because it alleviates my pain, or fear, or stress, how altruistic can I really consider myself at the end of the day. So going forward, if I were to have one more goal for the future, it would be this: Do for me, but in such a way that the world around me can be happy with what I’ve done. It’s a lofty goal, I know, but why not shoot for the moon here? It’s only my life we’re talking about…