Tag Archives: goals

little boxes

I’ve been thinking a lot about the hard work it takes to realize personal goals. I’m a quitter, you see.

believe

A lot of my high school graduating class has successfully transitioned to “normal” adult life. They work at banks, in cubicles, or at medical offices. They wear suits or scrubs. They participate in the thrill of rush hour. They go on cruises sometimes. But I, at almost 25, just quit my job on a production floor to work part time at a coffee shop. I’m working jobs that most certainly don’t require a four year degree. And the thing about it is that, ultimately, I chose these paths, these technical jobs. Sure, I’ve interviewed for “real” jobs, but I’ve never gravitated toward them.

What I’m trying to figure out is if I’m afraid or enlightened. We think we know ourselves, but we’ve told so many coping stories, it all gets muddled in our heads. On the one hand, I know I’m terrified of getting stuck. The thought of spending decades in an office chair working toward something I’m not absolutely passionate about makes the veins on the side of my head pop out. But I also like to think I’m (rightly) ideologically opposed to buying into the myth that adult life has to look like that, as if wearing modest black pumps to work and conducting conference calls is the badge of responsibility or the marker of success. 

But refusing that life means it’s up to me to make something happen. If I’m not willing to be propelled into stable adulthood by a corporate infrastructure, it rests on me to provide the push forward. And I’d like to pretend I’m strong enough to take care of myself; I scoff at those who take the easy way out – who settle – but I allow the fear of failure to eat away at me before I’ve really started anything.

I quit my job because it was unfulfilling, but, I swear, it’s not because I’m lazy. I have big plans for my vintage store. I’m excited to make it happen. I’m also terrified that the success or failure of Platinum and Rust is my burden to bear alone. I need to believe I can do it. I need to believe I have the skills, the tact, and the talent to succeed. I’m afraid that my peers (and parents) living in cushy, corporate stability scoff at me. I’m afraid that they don’t think I can do it. I’m afraid that their boxed-in dreams (or contentment, as it may be) masquerading as wisdom will get the best of them, and the best of me.

But it really doesn’t matter, does it? When I succeed, none of the doubt will matter at all.

Advertisements

the time will pass anyway: navigating life in your twenties

Girls

“Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” – Earl Nighingale

This idea as a life framework has been on my mind for the past several weeks. I realized – in the back of my mind at first but now clearly – that it was always a lie that success was waiting just around the corner from graduation day. Success coupled with fulfillment takes time. And it’s always taken time. And the fact that the Mid-Life Crisis is a fixture of our society is proof that people have been telling each other and themselves the lie for decades, and that the delusion eventually wears off.

Life in my twenties, and maybe for its entirety, is about finding the balance between financial survival and personal fulfillment. And they don’t always arrive together, at the same time or as part of the same activity. And being content with that, and knowing I’m ok, and continuing to strive regardless, is the big life lesson.

What I’m still trying to figure out is if we need to rework what we say to kids about following their dreams or if we would cling to that idealism even if we weren’t told it. Maybe we would go through the crap of realizing in our guts that life is hard, that we can’t always get what we want, that life isn’t fair, even if attempts were made to let us down easy in the beginning.

Ultimately, it’s worthwhile to work toward hard, big, important goals. It’s easier to keep going, though, when we don’t put ourselves on a timeline, when we realize we won’t implode if we don’t get from point A to point B by age 25. I don’t think my generation suffers from a case of adultlescence. I think prior generations were simply deferring the hard questions for mid-life. And some within my generation have been intimidated into deferring it, too. But I believe that:

“Contrary to a belief popular among older people, the Quarterlife Crisis is not the idle whining of a coddled, presumptuous post-adolescent. It is the response to reaching the turning point between young adulthood and adulthood; it is the amalgamation of doubt, confusion, and fear that comes with facing an overwhelming set of identity issues and societal expectations at once.” – Alexandra Robbins, It’s a Wonderful Lie

If we do it now, maybe we can avoid it later. And that’s ultimately healthier because we’re less tied down now. We have the space – and the physical health – to move past the false expectations and self doubt and maybe arrive at a place of contentment and self-understanding in a decade or so. And we get a whole, long life to work toward our dreams instead of scrambling for it at age 50, ill-equipped and emotionally shattered.

Know that, as long you’re dreaming and reading and working toward something, you’re fine. You don’t need to have arrived. And you might never arrive. It’s the working toward something with hope and diligence that ultimately makes you a success as a human being. Believe in that and find rest.

“…The pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves — by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking” — we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.” – There’s More to Life than Being Happy, The Atlantic

photo source: CNN

on the ash heap

Job art

I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself this month to create meaningful content. But I don’t have much to say.

I rant and discuss and reflect often enough, but my brain is too scattered, too absorbed in the task of figuring out what I’m going to do with my life, to spew out anything coherent or meaningful.

Everything’s been fine. But as I settle into living here – as it becomes less like a vacation – I’m restless to just get on with my life:

To change the world, or at least a small part of it.

To know my path.

To achieve something visible, tangible, momentous.

To feel, each day, that I’m living life right.

And I’m past the point of thinking that there’s one particular right path I was predestined to follow. I recognize the big lie that success is measured by high levels of both stress and income. And I daily stop to remember that I’m young – and I repeat all the cliche phrases that accompany that thought for good measure.

There’s a misplaced, or displaced, drive, I think. I want to Do Something. I’ve gotten used to people telling me what to do and how to plan my time.

The whole point, I guess, is that it’s up to me to create and follow all the steps. The safety wheels and floaties are actually off now. I have to make decisions and follow through. But I also get to be in charge and achieve something and bask in the results.

I’m mostly afraid that I will collapse into the ashes of my bankrupted dreams – that the light will flicker out, that I’ll end up a prisoner to absolute failure.

* image source: JOB ON THE ASH HEAP, JUSEPE DE RIBERA

food for thought

 

“If you do really like what you’re doing…you can eventually become a master of it…and then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is…it’s absolutely stupid to go on doing things you don’t like…and to teach your children to follow in the same track…to bring up their children to do the same things. It’s all retch and no vomit – it never gets there.” – Alan Watts

Lenten reflections & goals

tulips

I grew up an Evangelical Christian, though thankfully within churches that provided a broader worldview than strict fundamentalism. Although I don’t recall hearing any explicit anti-liturgical speeches from the pulpit, there was a below-the-surface distrust of liturgical traditions as well as a widespread belief that Catholics weren’t really Christians (though I never understood that). The only parts of the church calendar we followed were Christmas (we also tossed around the word Advent occasionally while not actually practicing it) and Easter.

As I learned more about the founding of evangelical movements in the United States, I came to understand that this separateness – this stubborn individualism – developed, in part, to bring Christianity into the hands and hearts of the masses. I think that’s a good thing. But I also think that throughout the complex and tangled history of Christian movements, we’ve had a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As an adult now with a wider view of Christian tradition, I see value in the familiarity and routine the church calendar provides. As Advent left its restorative mark on the Christmas season for me last year, I anticipate that Lent, too, can provide opportunity for reflection and transformation. I’ve participated in it half-heartedly for several years, but I’m ready to make a commitment to it practically and spiritually.

Lent is a season of repentance and self-denial leading up to the observance of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is intended to remind us of Christ’s grandiose and restorative act of self-sacrifice on the cross juxtaposed against our own human frailty. We reflect somberly on our fallen state to amplify the grace that arrives daily with the knowledge that Christ is risen indeed.

Lent, it seems to me, is not practiced well if one only considers what one is giving up. My  high school friends from liturgical traditions would give up soda or french fries every year, but could never explain to me the significance of the act. I scoffed at their ignorance when I should have scoffed at my own.

Giving something up, it turns out, is about penitence: it’s not just a project in self control but a strict disciplinary action taken against ourselves, a reminder that we are rowdy and undisciplined by nature.

The vital next step is to realize that giving up bad habits clears up space for spiritual reflection. I’m terrible at meditating on the character of God, on seeing myself as someone in relationship to and with the Divine. It wasn’t always that way; I spent a long time wanting my old spiritual awareness back instead of recognizing that I could progress toward a new and better spiritual life. I’m ready for progress.

This Lenten season, I’m giving up rewarding myself with non-essentials (clothes, books, makeup, etc.) and taking on better spiritual practice. I intend to read more theology, pray more, and intentionally seek out ways to practice kindness and self-sacrifice. I’m replacing bad habits with good ones. I’m filling the void instead of wallowing in it. I recognize my shortcomings and repent from them more fully, I think, when I compare them to the vibrant spiritual life I could live instead.

I encourage you to meditate and reflect on your life in relationship with Christ as you trudge through these final days of winter, as you look forward to the rebirth and joy that arrives with spring.

I am not less

graduate photo

One Saturday night a few weeks ago, Daniel and I were in the car on the way to a potluck dinner where several grad students would be present when he asked me:

“Why do you act embarrassed that you’re not in grad school?”

I replied, “Because I am embarrassed. And I’m embarrassed now that my embarrassment was so obvious that you picked up on it.”

Here’s my confession: I’ve been embarrassed that I’m not pursuing grad school since the semester before I received my undergraduate degree.

That was always the expectation, at first from only myself and later from everyone (at least as I perceived it): peers, family, professors, coworkers, friends. I heard them saying, implicitly or aloud:

Leah is the grad school type. Leah is smart and motivated and needs to use her academic talent to better the humanities. Leah is too good to leave academia. Leah’s job as a nanny/framer/barista is obviously temporary – we know she can do better

But here I am, two years later, not in grad school. And I can’t help feeling like a disappointment to myself and everyone who invested in a dream that may have been more theirs than mine all along. And I have to learn to cope with that. To not be ashamed of myself just because I don’t have a title or prepared statement for that pervasive, incessant question: “What are you doing with your life?”

Do I have to know what I’m doing with my life? Does anyone ever stick to their early-20s response? And if they do, are they satisfied?

I need to work through my feelings of inadequacy. I need to see value in myself as a living human being trying to better myself and be good to others. I need to recognize that I am enough as long as I strive to make life meaningful – by the moment and the hour and the day.

I need others to grant me the space to breathe. I need others to have the self-respect to see themselves as more than their resumes or academic accolades so that they can see me in that light, too.

I’m trying to internalize the truth that I don’t have to – and probably shouldn’t – measure myself by someone else’s standards for success. I’m trying to overcome the pull of the myth that the highest form of human being is the employed scholar. I can be who I want to be, read what I want to read, and discuss in depth what I want to discuss without a piece of paper that tells others I’m an expert, that tells me I have the right to speak. And I can do other things too. And I have the right to respect myself for grand things like my entrepreneurial goals and lowly things like my ability to make a great cappuccino.

And I am not less for the decisions I’ve made or the place I’m in. 

end of isolation

bug in paper lantern

For the past two weeks it’s just been Daniel and me. And it’s nice to spend time together – to work and read and relax in the same room for hours on end – but almost everyone else left town and you kind of feel like you’re holed up in a room the size of Charlottesville with nothing to do and only your second half to talk to (which may really just be yourself).

Last night we broke the fast from socialization with a potluck dinner. I sat on a couch squished between two people, leaning forward to take in the conversation, and felt grateful – and lucky – to be a small part of such an interesting, dynamic, funny, and thoughtful group. The isolation was worth it for the chance to realize that.

That being said, the past few weeks have helped me think through and intensify my goals:

  • I’m eating (a little bit) healthier, eating in more, and saving money.
  • I’m taking more walks.
  • I’m considering delving back into the world of portrait photography (I’m offering free photo sessions in the Charlottesville area).
  • The advertisements I put out for my store are slowly but surely bringing in new customers and I’m staying on top of bookkeeping.
  • My fair trade blog venture is bringing me great satisfaction.
  • I’m in the process of working with Fair Trade Towns USA to approve the city of Charlottesville for their Fair Trade directory.

How do you work through periods of isolation? How are you achieving your short and long term goals?