On Having Goals

If you are reading this, then 1) congrats, you are exploring an uncharted segment of the Internet, and 2) be warned - a rambling discourse shall ensue.

In the past several years, I've sat down in December and concocted a list of "Goals and Dreams" for the upcoming year...goals being more in the way of sensible plans, and dreams being something like nice ideas.  I don't know if I'm going to do that this year, however.

I was never one for serious personal goals, which might explain why I was always bad at fulfilling them.  Little by little, I'm changing - I have made and met personal goals in the last two years.  But my philosophy remains mostly unchanged (I think?).  I am reluctant to form longterm goals for myself; I barely believe in their worthwhileness.

Maybe I should give up the goals and just expand on the dreams.  I have lots of those.
  • Visit Alaska, Argentina, and Antarctica (my "AAA" vacations).  Not all at once.
  • Learn French, Chinese, Russian, and Arabic.  (Not all at once.)
  • Record an album of vocal songs.
  • Record an album of instrumental songs.
  • Publish my novel(s).
  • Have a dedicated YouTube channel.
  • Be a better blogger. 
  • and so on...
The trouble with dreams is they are so light and airy, and so prone to be detached from reality that it is hard to fit them into actions.

I have a hard enough time keeping up with my requisite obligations.  Why do I even think outside those limits?

The creative side of me is an almost perpetual bout of cabin fever.  I forget it until I hear a favorite symphony, or play a simple tune on the piano, or write with hectic haste for Nanowrimo.  Then this propensity for artistry (what I call artistry) demands attention, full attention.  I don't have the motivation to give it full attention; my self-esteem doesn't stay afloat long enough for that.

I relegate such instincts to "goals and dreams," where they peter away to nothing.

And so on every year.

I was reading an excellent discussion, not too long ago, about just this sort of problem.  One commenter pointed out something that was at least a temporary comfort.  Basically, s/he said that this notion of feeling like you have to achieve "everything" in your 20s/30s is a modern phenomenon, whereas in times past it was expected you would grow older and wiser and become a Renaissance (multi-talented) man or woman only later in life.

Sorry, that was a wordy summary.  But the idea remains.  As twenty-somethings, are our own expectations just too high?

For me personally, I know I have always had very high expectations of myself, perhaps unreasonably high.  I look at my parents' lives and the lives of other people around me, and I realize I have so many privileges they didn't or don't have.  Ergo, I must be more productive, take hold of all the available advantages, and be doubly accomplished.  This expectation was totally self-inflicted, I should emphasize - and guilt used to set in when I found myself falling short.  (Sometimes it still does.)

It isn't even that I don't do "anything"; it's that the things I am doing either pale in comparison to what I envision them to be, or they are different things than what I consider to be accomplishments.  Now, too, that I've become a "grown-up," I feel a second level of expectation that I ought to be doing Something Important, that my true calling "ought" to become evident and I should be pursuing it 100%.

What am I doing?  I work full time as a programmer.  That was never on my list of career choices as a child (and I had a long and diverse list).

What do I want to do?  I don't even know.

If you get into these circles of self-examination, you can get mighty frustrated with your life.  That was a greater part of 2015.  This year, thankfully, it's bothered me less.  I don't know why, exactly, but somehow it eased up, even though I'm as confused as ever.

Something happened this summer that threw an interesting light on it.  I was all ready to move out of my parents' house, where I've lived all my life.  By "all ready," I mean I was ready to sign a lease; I was ready to get rid of stuff and collect cardboard boxes to put the other stuff in.  There were two nice, new apartment complexes being built in the neighborhood where I wanted to live.  They were comparably priced and units were going fast; I wasn't sure which of the two complexes to choose.  I literally prayed to God asking, "which one?"

It was a very specific question, and I got a very specific answer.  In the week or so that followed, I felt He answered me pretty clearly.  He gave me an answer to a question I hadn't asked.  His answer was simply, "Neither, and none."  I suddenly was convinced not to move.  It wasn't a sensation of homesickness exactly, nor even relief - I was actually somewhat disappointed, having passively planned it (yes, a goal!) for months and months.  But without a doubt, it hit me, like a conviction, that I shouldn't leave.

That was one goal of this year.  It turned out not to be the right goal, but it's better to find that out than to pursue the wrong thing (or the right thing at the wrong time).

I did complete two goals this year: 1) read 25 books, and 2) win Nanowrimo.

I've been trying to win Nanowrimo for years, so that was kind of unbelievable.  I just made up my mind that nothing would steal my win - certainly not the election, nor my everyday personal blues.  I decided if I was going to commit to it this year, I was going to win.  I finished early, on the 27th of November.

You could say that, with Nanowrimo, a longterm (four years') dream became a shortterm goal.  Maybe that's the way to do it.

Week 1 of the planner

This year, I wanted to try something new: using a planner.  I did day-by-day planning in college, both in a book and in random notes (scattered physically and digitally all over the place).  I've also seen good results over the past year using Outlook Calendar at work.  Could a personal planner help me get things done outside of work?

I haven't mentioned it before, but I can get a bit fangirly about Paperblanks.  They publish journals and writing books in beautiful designs that look just like a hardcover classic (or even prettier!).  I have one of their Romantic Sensibility journals, which, once I finally let myself scribble it it, I use for poetry writing.  They are a little pricey, but the quality matches the price, and you feel like you've got something really special, something worth handwriting in.  (Not a sponsor...I haven't got any of their books for free.)

So, all this to say, I was very excited to get this for Christmas.

Writing down my plans for the next day (or few) has been nicely helpful so far.  It requires me to map out, in advance, how I'm going to fit in all the things I've committed to, and I've found I'm more likely to stick to it when it's on paper, "officially."  As you can see, the inability to "Edit" has been...a challenge.  But even that is a benefit - for example, I go back and overwrite the numbers to the hours I actually worked, and having to overwrite it makes me reflect on the results.

"Hiatus from Tunnel Vision" - readable version at noonlightsonata

And it's nice to have pages in the back, for the poems that pester me when I'm trying to work.  ;)