Reflecting on My 20’s and My Silly Timeline
In a few days, I turn thirty years old. It’s one of those significant milestones that make you reflect on your progress in life. So I went back to those goals I set for myself at twenty to see how the decade “measured up,” so to say:
Fall in love
Adopt a child
Adopt a dog
Have a career
Own a house
Publish a novel
I remember that I made a little timeline too. I had determined the proper timing between falling in love and getting married. I calculated when to start having children and when to adopt. I had it all figured out. How foolish I was.
Well, I have four days to check off the eight goals that I have not yet achieved. Yep. If you did not go back and count the bulleted items, that means I have completed one of those goals. Here is my accomplishment:
Some might say I failed; I wasn’t successful. But I’m not upset at all. I cannot believe how different I am from twenty-year-old me. I am so much wiser now, because now I know how little I know, how little I can control, and how little good it does to worry over the little things. I often find myself saying, “I know nothing.” (Then, I follow that with a cheesy grin as I add in a whisper, “Jon Snow.” Every time. It’s amazing I even have friends.) I used to have answers to life questions that I’ve since learned have no answer. In my twenties, I knew life wasn’t black or white, I understood the gray area. But now at the cusp of thirty, I’ve learned there is a wide spectrum of color when trying to understand life, truth, and people. Life is brighter, more interesting, and more confusing for it. I love it.
But I’d like to reflect on the goals of twenty-year-old me:
1. Fall in love
It’s true; I have never been in love. I’ve made excuses for it, but, to be honest, dating terrified me. You may have seen many variations of the quote that says, “Sure, I talk about wanting a boyfriend, but what do you do with them? Do you feed them? How often?” I don’t know the original author, but this quote resonates with me.
I think my inexperience with love is largely due to my questionable self-esteem and tendency to over-think. There is also the fact that I'm pretty oblivious to flirting. I just never expect it. But also, the issue might be having to source potential matches from online dating, as my personal life doesn't introduce me to single men my age. The men I've met are ridiculously unsuitable. Those disastrous dates were probably a reflection of my online profile. I didn’t know myself before, and I didn’t know what I was looking for.
I'm not displeased that I didn't meet anyone. My life has changed, and I have changed. I am more confident and self-aware than I ever was. I am much more prepared to be in a healthy relationship than I was when I made the list. Now I just need to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to fall in love. I’m working on that. More later.
Uh, you really should fall in love before you get married. No matter what some well-meaning relatives say. (I am from a culture that believes a woman’s primary purpose is to marry and produce children. It’s not a foreign idea, but these people are VERY serious about making marriage and babies happen for me.)
3. Have kids
I am so glad I have not had any children yet. I would still love to be a mom. However, in my early twenties, I was unsure of who I was. For the last six years, I taught high school English. I let that career consume me and did not balance it with my life at all. I would have either been a terrible mother or a terrible teacher. I only recently realized have I learned to set boundaries and balance my responsibilities with my priorities.
4. Adopt a child
This is still a fierce dream of mine. There are many children in foster homes that need a forever home, and I am still a woman who longs for her own forever family. I hope one day I get to have the privilege of adopting a child into my family.
5. Adopt a dog (CHECK!)
Uh, I did this one. I even think my plan was to adopt a pug, and. if you look closely at that picture earlier, you will notice that little creature is vaguely part pug. In fact, pug is the only breed that her vets have ever been able to confirm. Either way, she is my darling Sybil. She was adopted in 2013, when she was just a soft, fluffy puppy.
6. Have a career
Well, I did have one, but, just recently, I decided to start over. I’m so glad I did. I loved teaching, but an epiphany made recognize and agree with long-ago words of wisdom from my parents: I did not know what else was out there. I can’t wait to see where life takes me.
7. Own a house
It’s hard to do that without money. But I am very blessed that I have always had a place to call home. That is so much more important.
8. Publish a novel
This. This is the only item that makes me disappointed in myself. I love writing. I am disappointed that I put it on the back-burner and then turned off that burner. I let other priorities take over my dream of being a writer. I let insecurity tell me that it was no use anyway, that no one would publish what I had to say. And did I have anything to say, anyways? Pish posh. I’m going to write now. I am going to write here and I’m going to work on those story ideas I’ve had. It makes me happy. Why wouldn’t I do what makes me happy? And if no one reads what I write, oh well. At least I wrote it. After all, no one will ever read what I don’t even write.
9. Visit Italy
I’d still like to do this, but, even more so, I want to visit Scotland and Ireland. These are places that are in my blood. Also, I’ve read the first four books of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and I’m completely smitten with Scotland (and, yes, with Jamie Fraser).
My sister and I do have a fund for travelling to Ireland. It’s the one country that we both want to visit. (She tends to favor the exotic locations like Australia and anywhere she can see lions. I favor the places with beautiful languages, rich literary histories, and delicious food.) But we both want to see Ireland. I think she is more interested in the pubs where I am intrigued by castles and landscapes, but no matter. We collaborated (which is a rarity for us) to start our fund. Each birthday and Christmas we gift the other person with $50 for our fund. We are up to a whopping $250. We started a year ago, and it should be only $200 but I somehow got confused and put in an extra $50. But it can’t hurt.
Really, I do want to see more of the world. And I believe that one day I will.
So as I consider what I want for this decade, I’ve decided to leave out some of the previous goals. I’m not going to worry so much about the end results. As I’ve said previously, when I try to control my destination, I limit myself. Besides, how creepy would it be if I entered each first date telling them my goal was to fall in love and marry. Uh, can’t the guy breathe a little? Can’t we just enjoy our food and each other’s company?
So I’m taking to heart my mother’s recent strange advice: “Take a lover.” (To be fair, she said this knowing that I’m too closed off, I’m too reserved. I’m too uptight. I take myself and life too seriously. This is not the advice she would give to my sister.) I'm going to have a love affair with life and where I am now. I'm going to enjoy the journey rather than miss out on life because I'm focusing on the destination.
My goals for the next decade:
Say yes to life. Thank you, Shonda Rhimes, for your inspirational words in Year of Yes. I recommend this book to anyone who is not loving life to its fullest. Are you happy? Do you have joy?
Give out love. I don’t have to love the thing or person forever, but I’m going to give love to the world. Instead of waiting for love, I’m going to be love and I’m going to share love. Maybe I can start with learning how to initiate hugs without all the awkwardness? Maybe.
Follow what feels right. Follow what makes me happy. Sometimes I follow what I think society expects or what I think should be the right, or rational, path. Usually that means that I’ve just taken the safest course in life.
Open my eyes. I want to travel and I want to see the world. I think I will do that in this next decade, but I also just want to experience life firsthand. Have you seen how many people go to a concert and spend the whole time watching it through their smartphone as they record it. Experience the moment. Also, side note, I don’t know why so many people record fireworks. Put down your phone, breathe in the crisp night air and just enjoy the show. Who wants to watch videos of fireworks? Are you even going to watch it? Why?
Write. I don’t have to publish a novel, but I do have to write. I love writing. I may not be faithful posting here, but I’m going to write more. Then, if that writing results in something worth publishing in book form, I will try to do that. But instead of being concerned with the end result, my goal is going to be regularly engaging in the process of writing
We’ll see how I do, but I think these are more admirable goals because these encourage a more full life. I would be better off as a lover, wife, mother, and writer if I do these things. I might even make some of my goals for my 20’s happen in my 30’s.