A word about goals, age, and lists


Sometime when I was sixteen, or twenty, or somewhere in there – those years are all so hazy – I made a “Do Before Turning Thirty” list for myself. It included things such as: finish Ph.D., get an agent, travel to Israel. My rationale for this? I’ve no idea. I think it was the result of my mental musings; no order of importance, no particular reason, just a summation of the things I wanted to do, sort of like what you want to get the next time you are at the grocery store. Different from shopping for a particular meal or event, but similar to being on the lookout for a spectacular dress, because, well, you just can’t have too many of those, can you?

            This September I came a year closer to my deadline and I was nervous. I was close to crossing off a few of the must do; I’ve been a doctoral candidate for a few years now and keep sending revision to my dissertation committee. Also, written in invisible ink, I’ve found the person who will support me throughout my life, whether they are goals for thirty, forty, or one hundred. Why was I secretive about putting “get married” on the list? A combination of despair (no one is out there), defiance (if no one is out there, I’d rather be dead than disappointed looking for him), and disapproval (there is no one because I’m a special case). Lucky for me: none of these were true. And even luckier, he did want to help me get to my “Thirty” list. Which is why when we went on safari earlier this month, check. Another one down.

            There are still three to go (again no particular order):

1.      Visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories

2.      Finish my Ph.D.

3.      Publish a novel


Yes, it’s going to be a busy year!


Do you have goals, reader? 
If not, I encourage you start dreaming and set some. To employ a cheesy (but nonetheless truthful true cliché) – if you aim for nothing, that’s what you’ll get.

If you have some (either age related or otherwise): share?

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Reader Comments

  1. jksmyth

    Goals, Age, and Lists

    I hope my mother and father know that I hold them in the highest regard for never having lost their interest in always trying to learn more about the world they live in — even now that they are eighty-one and eighty-six years old respectively.

    I hope they know I am grateful for their active and deep-rooted commitment to social justice especially since, given the selfish tendencies in human nature, few people have the integrity to invest more of their energy in worrying about other people’s suffering than they do in whether or not their IPod, watch, tv, or car bears a more impressive brand name than their neighbor’s does.

    I hope my parents know I admire the long years they invested in the work force: Mom by demanding of her editor-in-chiefs that the magazine where she worked lived up to higher ethical standards than they were sometimes inclined to set (I nicknamed her “The Moral Bulldog of LIFE” years ago), and Dad by making the world at large a wider, richer, and more meaningful place by adding to it his urbane wit, wisdom, and eloquence through sometimes fulfilling and sometimes tormented years as an author.

    I hope Mom and Dad know I love them for the magic and wonder they paraded before me throughout my childhood by always introducing me to some brilliant, other eccentric, but always interesting people; for showing me idyllic or historic or otherwise culturally-relevant places; and exposing me to a never-ending plethora of new and riveting ideas. By being privy to their political, literary, and always well-informed discussions, my inquisitiveness about the world I lived in was awakened at an absurdly early age, as was my wonder at the power and beauty of words.

    I recently discovered a new goal for myself as I approach age fifty. Rather than value my mother and father from a distance and from the point of view of the past, I want to maximize every available opportunity to spend time with them. They both remain physically active and more intellectually engaged with the world around them than almost anyone else I’ve ever known. They continue to read, write, view, and discuss politics and art in all of its mediums – through books, newspapers, films, magazines, museums, theaters, and in great halls of music.

    In recent years Mom has become an enthusiastic “birder” and taken Continuing Education classes in literature and music appreciation (the latter to further ignite her lifelong passion for Mozart). She sends scathing “Letters to the Editor” to various newspapers upbraiding insincere politicians, vilifying unconscionable corporations, exposing ignorant war mongers, and begging the powers that be to consider at least a little bit more the fragile needs of the earth’s ecosystems, as well as the needs of the less privileged people that share the earth with the rest of us. She continues to doggedly maintain a daily ritual she has performed for over sixty years: reading The New York Times each day before she has her single scrambled egg and slice of multi-grain toast for breakfast.

    Dad devotes several hours each day to rereading, sorting, and scrapbooking a lifetime’s worth of letters, articles, and short stories he’s written. He plays tennis three times a week and continues to cultivate both the garden beds that define his back patio and the fertile borders of his creative talent. His correspondence with a wide net of friends remains prolific. Not intimidated or daunted by the number of years he’s racked up on life’s abacus, he sometimes embarks on cross-country trips, covering hundreds of miles, pursuing sights he’s suddenly realized he’s never seen before or that he deems worth seeing again. He still delights in all kinds of humor and is transported by the sounds of a good jazz band to a state of profound joy.

    I have a list to which I refer from time to time. It reads something like this:

    1.)Visit with Mom –
    Talk, read, write, and watch the news with her. Go to a concert, take a walk, share a meal, go to an art gallery with her, and listen to what she has to say.

    2.) Visit with Dad –
    Talk, read, write, and watch the news with him. Turn on a good radio station, work in the garden, share a meal, take a drive with him, and listen to what he has to say.

    3.) Visit again…

    4.) And again…

    5.) And again…

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