I have a habit of making three or four big goals when I’m about to reach a new decade in age. I tend to do a lot of reflecting, and anticipate what kind of adventure I can write for myself for the next ten years. I started doing this when I turned 30. I believe it is because the first twenty years of my life were controlled by others in terrible, sad, and tragic ways. I spent my twenty’s trying to recover and repress my past, so I could simply survive day-to-day.
Then I turned 30 and I thought, I’m going to set some big long-range goals, and see if I can work towards attaining them in ten years. I never really told anyone my goals, I just knew what they were. For example, I wanted to own a house by the time I was 40. I figured out what I needed to do and began working towards it. To reach that goal, I focused on a career choice. I went back to school and this time earned a degree that would help set me up financially. I became a homeowner at 38. Some goals are not that grand. Some are small, such as, I would like to learn a new kind of exercise that is completely out of my comfort zone. I also give myself a break. If I no longer find that a goal I set is useful, or I simply can’t reach it, I let it go. After all, I’m the one writing my own adventure.
I found that the goals I had set in my 30’s and 40’s were focused on family, career, travel, with a reach for the stars attitude. I’m extremely motivated to try new things and don’t shy away from taking risks.
Then I got sick with PTSD. And my goals became extremely clear to me. Learn the truth of my past, have a congruent timeline of my life, and learn to live, not just survive. In fact, those goals weren’t really a choice, they were imperative to my survival.
I recently had a birthday. And although I still have a year until I reach the start of a new decade, I found I was stumbling around and feeling quite unsure of myself, because I didn’t really want, or have a need to set goals.
As I reflected, I was sure I wanted to just be content, surround myself with like-minded and loving family and friends, continue to learn compassion for myself and enjoy this life that I’m living. I wanted to feel happily satisfied that I will always have a natural and insatiable curiosity about life, people, and how we’re all connected. With a little astrophysics thrown in along the way.
Somehow, that resistance of making “goals” caused me a bit of distress. I felt lazy, or like I was giving up, and tuning out. When in fact, I realize I was tuning in. It just looks different than before.
Then I was sent a link to a wonderful talk given by Arthur Brooks at the Aspen Ideas Festival, titled: Strategies for happiness in life. After listening to this talk, I went from fighting this self-imposed feeling of irrelevance to, wow…this is the trajectory I was dipping my toes into but felt like I couldn’t or shouldn’t. In very brief summary, his points were, “don’t rage against change, teach others what you know, take away the parts of you that aren’t really you, and surround yourself with love.”
As I reflected on this talk, and let go of my distress, I took to heart Brook’s four points, and also added a few more of my own. I decided that these points (I’m not using the word goals any longer) are how I want to live for the next decade(s) of my life.
I can make a difference in this world by understanding that although I’m a quiet voice, I still have a ripple effect that may bring change in how we talk about mental illness and help remove stigmas. I can live content, surround myself with like-minded and loving family and friends, continue to learn compassion for myself and enjoy this life that I’m living.
My natural and insatiable curiosity about life, people, and how we’re all connected, with a little astrophysics thrown in along the way, is a part of me, and that’s okay! In fact, as I reflect and look deep inside in my spirit mirror, I believe this may be a time of deep personal growth, change, and acceptance of… well…me!
Thank you for reading my books: If I Could Tell You How It Feels, and Untangled, A Story of Resilience, Courage, and Triumph