Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Today I hope to comb my hair

The lovely and talented Kelly at A Child is Born tagged me to write about slacking ... or being a useless slug ... or driving along the boulevard of broken dreams ... I don't know I think the official title was something like "What Five Goals Have You Largely Ignored?"

As I sat down to formulate my thoughts about the subject, I was startled to realize that pretty much all my goals have gone the way of Prince Charming or world peace or affordable healthcare: Silly notions I may have had as a starry-eye youth, but were soon beaten to death by the wage gap or the glass ceiling or the myriad inequities ranting and raving did nothing to change.

Whenever someone even mentions the word "goals" I tend to imagine some stuffed shirt corporate lackey -- a middle-managing boss-type character direct from the movie Office Space -- whose attendance at a management style conference in Las Vegas one summer six years ago provided him with the keys to the universe and a guest towel in the executive shitter. You'll recognize him easily enough. He's the one in the bad suit, who's never had an original thought in his life, coaching his "team" with slogans like everyone needs to be "thinking outside of the box."

OK. Maybe I'm just a little bitter.

When I was younger my goals were uninspired stock dreams:
*I wanted to go to graduate school.
*I wanted to travel and see the world.
*I wanted to be a journalist for LIFE magazine.
*I wanted to be in history books for the way I saw things.
*I wanted other people to think I was valuable.

But something happened to me as I got older. I couldn't decide on a major (let alone a direction) so I abandoned plans for grad school. I fell into a career that started small and just got smaller. I let fear settle down. I came to terms with being painfully shy and lacking in confidence. I was still the child who wanted to say something but hadn't figured out what, only now I was growing older and more set in a comfort zone. I had goals but no plan. No way to get from here to there.

I didn't feel valuable.

Eventually my goals became little ticks of obsession-compulsion:
*Get to the light before it turns Red.
*Empty the dishwasher before the baby wakes up.
*Switch the laundry from the washer to the dryer.
*Weed the flower bed before it gets too overgrown.
*Write something and post it before the kid (or the husband) comes looking for you.

The Grand Plan had become a To Do list.

Sounds depressing, doesn't it? But it really hasn't been. There's more to life than aggrandizing the things we do; the personal satisfaction we glean from being the amazingly talented beings we only see in the mirror. But whether you call it a goal or a dream or a life's purpose, once attained it's an ending.

Parenthood, if nothing else, shows you in no uncertain terms that having a child isn't the end. It's just a another piece of the collective you. You may identify yourself as a mother (or father) or you may not. You might put your heart and soul into raising the best and brightest or you may look on in amazement as it happens anyway. But you are always moving forward ... always trying to keep up.

So I don't have goals anymore I just have things to do. Keep moving, keep plugging, don't look back.


I'm not going to tag anyone for this, but as always if you want to write about it, let me know and I'll give you some linky love


Kelly said...

What a wonderful collection with a superb ending. It's so easy to feel like you do nothing, accomplish nothing, as a parent, as you go along and check things off the to-do list. Thanks for a different view, a reality check.

"Keep moving, keep plugging, don't look back..."


Redneck Mommy said...

Well done.

And girl, you are BEE-UU-TEE-FUUUUL!!!

Sarah said...

This is an incredible post. It is so...real. Just down to earth and glaringly TRUE.

When I was a kid, I had stock dreams too. I was going to study hard in college, work for the Peace Corps, do something language-related, teach, and basically save the world. Just run-of-the-mill ordinary stuff ("Today, I think I'll stop global warming and tomorrow, if I've got some free time, maybe I'll end world hunger.")

Then I grew up.

I lived abroad and translated texts and taught foreign languages and thought: Peace Corps? Hell to the no! I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and thought: study and stress through college? NO FRIGGIN WAY. I studied, socialized, worked, and took it easy. I can remember that point in time when I suddenly realized that my life wasn't going how I planned and I DIDN'T HAVE A BACKUP PLAN!

Today my goals are different. I want to marry the man I love and raise a family with him. I want to work hard to maintain a good relationship with my parents and my sisters. I want to cherish my family above my work, celebrate my faith before I celebrate my birthday, write a letter to my future MIL before writing a blog post. And that? Is really all I've got. The rest is all a big to-do list.

I think this is one of the best posts I have ever read. I really do.

Gail said...

I wasn't really goal-oriented when I was younger, I just kind of drifted along. I hated that question, "What do you do?" with an absolute passion, whether I had a job or not.

"I do what I like!" I wanted to say.

I suppose over the years I've nailed down what I DON'T want to do, or don't want to be. That must count for something.