This past Saturday was completely my own. I slept in, didn’t make plans to see anyone, leisurely completed a writing to-do list, and even—gasp--watched TV. I won’t bore anyone with the details of my day, but a few things happened that made me reflect… First, I cleaned out the guestroom/office.
Yo. I know. Crazy shit, man. But cleaning out an office led me down a rabbit hole of childhood dreams...
Like any spring cleaning done in August, this was a chore long overdue. I went through four bins packed with my stuff from college. All books, binders, and folders. (And some hilarious notes between friends.)
While organizing two baskets into “Creative Crap” and “English Language/Content Pedagogy,” I found a book I’d read maybe my junior year of high school, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. It’s based off of a lecture led by a professor from Carnegie Mellon University who’d only had a few months left to live and who’d wanted to impart some final pieces of wisdom on following your childhood dreams. Pretty nice read—probably makes the softer folk cry (hi).
Though, the little remarkable thing that caught my eye hadn’t been one of his many quotable pieces of advice. Nah. I’m too much of a narcissist for that, I guess. What caught my eye had been a list on the back and a folded up piece of paper.
After reading about a man who’d so unapologetically lived his life, it’s natural to write a list of your own life-goals. I had trouble reading my handwriting, sentences scrawled in splotchy blue ink, fat black marker, and unsharpened purple crayon, but these were apparently my dreams at 16 years old:
Some of these dreams I’ll happily drop. I clearly wasn’t sure about that idea to work at Disney for a bit; lo and behold, I really don’t care much for working at Disney anymore. (I’m pretty sure that was when I spent most of my free time watching face-character videos on YouTube.)
2. The Folded Up Piece of Paper…
I opened it to find a list of goals I set for college. A few highlights had been things like “maintain a 3.6-3.8 GPA every semester,” “work on at least one play,” “climb 5.11s-5.12s,” and AN INTERNSHIP EVERY SUMMER. (That last one is in all caps because—again—I’m cackling.)
Like before, I’m happy to see that I’ve accomplished a few of the goals I’d set for myself. As neurotic as I’d always been over grades, I feel the most pride at accomplishing my climbing goal. When I left school this past May, I’d been projecting 11s.
These lists don’t hold much weight now that I’m older. But really, I love that they’ve reminded me that goals change—that it's okay to leave a to-do list incomplete.
I haven’t gone running in Yellowstone, but I went camping in Yosemite and Arcadia. Owning a bookstore would be beautiful, but I’m also okay if it doesn’t happen as I have other things I’d like to try first. I got ZERO internships during my undergraduate career, but I travelled the world with my friends and I’ve also still got a job now sooooo…?
If I were to make a goals list right now, I would want it to have that same “lofty ambition” type of feel. Things like publish Alpha and Moon and teach abroad and climb everywhere and recreate Around the World in Fifty Days and make music videos with your best friends to become a YouTube celebrity or a meme…
Yes. SMART goals are important.** I try make them every day. But somewhere along the way, probably between getting my Master’s and falling into a quarter-life crisis, I’d forgotten that it’s okay to dream big.
Dream big—Christ, what a cliché.
I’ve told friends that I’m scared of feeling small. That I’m scared of this itch in my heart. This want for publication, for a chance to see the world.
I’m embarrassed when I daze off during a run, imagining silly scenarios like speaking to editors. I scold myself and say that I’m not thirteen anymore—that goals require work and not just what ifs. And yeah that’s true…
…but my dreaming at sixteen and eighteen found me success for twenty-three. Built who I am now.
When I climb and there’s a hold that’s particularly far away, my trick is to aim a bolt or two higher. I keep my eye on the space just above my goal and throw my hand up.
Sometimes I catch the piece right away and continue climbing.
Sometimes I still miss it and have to try again, keep aiming just above what I really need.
I like to think it’s my version of that “shoot for the moon” quote.
So yeah…um…Happy August-Spring-Cleaning-Here’s-Some-Corny-Lena-Life-Lessons?
**For those of you who don’t know, SMART goals are as follows:
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience