For the bulk of my life, when someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wasn’t able to give a definitive answer. There are just too many possibilities. I found this question particularly stressful when I was between the ages of 15 and 29. I remember feeling as if I were at this great crossroads, and there were so many directions I could turn that I had absolutely no idea which way I should go.
Jeez. No pressure there.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that I shouldn’t be focused on what I wanted to turn myself into. Instead, I should focus on what I wanted out of life. What do I need to be happy? Once I knew that, I could then formulate a plan to achieve these things. My becoming would be a natural outgrowth of my desires.
I’m not talking about material things, here. That’s not high on my list of priorities. Not that there is any right or wrong answer to the big question. If things are what you want out of life, you will take a very different journey than I will, and that’s okay.
What follows are the things I want out of life.
To love and be loved.
At least one decent travel opportunity per year.
Producing something that will last. A legacy, of sorts.
Leaving the planet ever so slightly better than I found it.
The opportunity to learn and grow as well as teach.
This is probably rather short notice, but have you thought about how you will be entering 2019? Think of it as a crowded room. How you enter it will make a difference as to how the year-long party will go for you.
Will you enter with energy and enthusiasm, or sneak in the back way and hope no one notices you? Both are legitimate ways to get from this year to next, but they’ll probably yield wildly different results. I suppose it depends on what you want to get out of the months to come.
Personally, I’ve never seen the point of getting roaring drunk and entering the year with a head splitting hangover. To me, that seems like starting yourself off thirty yards deep in your own endzone. But hey, we all make choices.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that you attend a great big New Year’s Party if you don’t want to. I never have. I’m a lot more low key than that. I’d rather not walk into 2019 feeling awkward and uncomfortable. That’s not a precedent I want to set.
No, I’m talking about the party of life in general. Do you have a plan? Do you have goals and intentions? (Forget about resolutions. How many people do you know who have stuck to those?) No, I’m talking about attitude. I’m talking about expectations. I’m talking about seizing the year!
I plan to enter this year with gratitude, joy, and anticipation. I want to have a wide open heart so that all my hopes and dreams can flow freely. I want this year to be one of hope and happiness.
So, Carpe Annum, dear reader! I hope you enter the year with a clear vision. I hope that you take some (measured) risks and have some adventures, and that this year yields everything you wish it will.
I know someone who has been unhappy for quite some time. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She never even tried. She just assumed that this was the natural state of things; the cards she had been dealt, as it were.
And then she sold her house and moved elsewhere. And now she’s completely different. Rather than being isolated, she interacts with people. She also gets to see the most amazing things from her balcony. Parades. Fireworks. Choirs.
You might say she’s gotten her groove back. And it’s beautiful to see. She’s excited about life again. All’s right with the world.
The funny thing is, she didn’t make this move in an effort to find happiness per se. That result was just the unexpected cherry on top of the sundae. Isn’t that great?
I love it when things fall into place. I love it even more when that outcome is unplanned. May you have many unexpected cherries in your life, dear reader.
It never occurred to me that going to college wasn’t mandatory. My mother had been drumming it into my head since the age of six. You will go to college. College was the next grade after 12th. That was what one did.
I don’t know why, but it shocked me that everyone didn’t feel that way. Many of my high school friends never went for higher education. They had other goals in life. Now I know that there’s nothing wrong with that.
It wasn’t until I met someone with no ambition at all that I realized how important goals truly are. This guy will probably always live in the same city. He’ll always have the same job, and the same struggles. He is so stuck in the past that he never looks toward the future. He works toward nothing. He looks forward to nothing. He never gets excited about anything. He has absolutely no imagination. He doesn’t want anything because he thinks he doesn’t deserve it. He never takes risks because he is too afraid of failure.
He is the most boring human being I’ve ever met. Being in his presence is depressing. I feel sorry for him. But I also have no respect for him.
Ambition is what makes life worth living. Striving for something is why you get out of bed in the morning. And your goals don’t have to be financial. That’s no yardstick to use to measure your life. Accumulation of stuff is meaningless. You goals should be about achieving something, or going somewhere, or creating something, or checking something off your bucket list. Those goals should be unique to you.
I’m not telling you what goals to have. I’m just saying, for heaven’s sake, have some. Otherwise, what’s the point?
When you make plans for the future, you’re demonstrating a delightful amount of optimism. Because life is fragile. It can pop like a soap bubble at any time. I’ve seen that happen more than once.
John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”
Sorry, John. You know I love you. But I disagree. I think life is making plans. The alternative, making no plans at all, or sitting back and letting the world kind of wash over you, is a form of death.
We are not meant to live like moss on a tree. The fact that we feel the need for religion shows that we struggle with accepting fate. I don’t think we are meant to be so accepting. We are meant to be the architects of our own lives.
Plans give you purpose. Purpose is what makes life worth living. I find the best antidote for depression is having something to look forward to.
Even more evidence of optimism is making plans with someone. It says, “We’re in this for the long haul.” “I have great expectations for us.” “You are the person I want to spend time with.” “I have faith in our relationship.”
The only thing I can think of that’s better than anticipating your future is anticipating your future while holding someone’s hand.
The older I get, the more people I know who are mourning the loss of a partner. Along with that, inevitably, comes the mourning of the loss of your future. Because couples make plans. That’s what they do. They have an image of what they’re working toward. When your partner dies or you get divorced, that image turns to dust.
That’s unsettling. Suddenly you have absolutely no idea where you are going. It is as if you’ve been blindfolded and spun in a circle. You spend a lot of time swinging your arms around in attempt to orient yourself and avoid crashing into things. And while you’re doing that, it seems as if the rest of the world is cruising merrily past you, intent upon one destination or another, not even having to rely on a GPS. You feel as though you can’t keep up. You’ve been left behind.
It can take many years before you’re able to find the strength turn your face toward the sun again. And when you do that, it feels really strange at first. What is this warmth I’m feeling? It feels good. Do I deserve to feel good? Should I feel guilty?
And then a funny thing happens. You start doing things that you like to do that you perhaps had abandoned because your partner wasn’t into them. And you stop doing things that you only did because your partner enjoyed them. In other words, you begin to take back your individuality.
Being an individual takes strength and courage. It takes confidence and creativity. At first you’re going to feel like a newborn giraffe. Not quite steady on your feet. A little confused about how you got here and why you’re suddenly towering over things that you never knew existed. The world will seem new.
But with any luck, one day you’ll wake up and you’ll realize that you’re actually kind of excited about the fact that the world seems new. Colors are brighter. Smells are more intriguing. Food has regained its flavor. Everything seems rife with possibilities.
And just like that, you begin to plan a brand new future. It may not look anything like the future you once imagined for yourself, but my wish for you is that it’s an adventure that you’re eager to begin. Onward!
Packing for a move is always an interesting experience. It gives you an opportunity to really look at all of your stuff. I often encounter things I had forgotten I have. And that makes me wonder why I still have those things. If I could live without them for this long, why am I holding on to them? The pressure is even more intense since I’m moving to a much smaller place with very little storage.
With each item, I have to ask myself, will I ever read this, wear this or use this ever again? No? Then out it goes.
Some things have sentimental value. I do have a right to a certain amount of clutter after 52 years of living. At least that’s what I tell myself.
But the things I struggle with most are the “someday” things. For example, I’ve kept that bag of printed cloth because someday I want to make a quilt. And I’ve kept my pottery tools because someday I want to take up pottery again. And that box of cables, wires, and adapters… well, you never know when they’ll come in handy.
That’s when I have to get all adult-y and say to myself, “Barb, do you have a history of quilt making? Do you see yourself with immense amounts of spare time to all of a sudden take up new hobbies? Do you have enough of a burning need for cables that their storage would offset the expense if you ever had to buy one of these obscure items?”
Adult-y Barb has allowed me to donate a lot of things to Goodwill. But I only listen to her sporadically. If you saw some of the crap I have hauled across the continent just because… well… who knows why… you’d laugh.
I have no idea why this purging of the superfluous is such a struggle for me. I know for a fact that the less junk I have surrounding me, the better I feel. What I really need is a good flame thrower. But don’t tell my homeowner’s insurance agent that I said that. And don’t get any ideas, either.
I’m about to walk into my kitchen and get rid of every single gadget I haven’t used in the past year. Because, while I’d like to imagine myself as someone who will throw dinner parties… Not so much. Wish me luck.