August 18, 2010 to infinity, and beyond!
oh toy story. you spanned nearly my entire life (1995-2010!). how i love thee.
but really, think about buzz lightyear. think about his preprogrammed catch phrase: “to infinity, and beyond!” as a kid, it inspired imagination. heck yes to infinity and beyond, where ever “beyond” might be!
then i grew up. and, much like little boy andy, forgot my imagination. forgot my passion. i forgot how to simply enjoy life. suddenly life turned into goals. better do well on your STAR tests (standard education tests done in all california public schools). you best score high on high school entrance exam (for private schools). and don’t even think about messing up the SAT. oh, and please, know what you want to do with your life by age 17 (the age i was going into college). by the time senior year rolled around, i found myself a tightly wound ball of anxiety. i peered down the road marked “future” and saw nothing. nothing at all. just a big, wide open void. no matter how hard i squinted nothing ever materialized.
for high school, i attended a private, catholic college preparatory. as a public schooler my entire life, i found the private institution challenging, especially academically. in addition, i went to school with (A LOT of) type-a overachievers (if this is you, keep on rocking. no judgment!) whose intelligence i found intimidating and whose grade records far out shined my own. i never quite did extremely well in school. i have a math learning disability, one my family and i discovered conveniently the second semester of my senior year. regardless, i struggled in math, science, and foreign language (same side of the brain, or so i am told) no matter how much effort i put in. any subject involving words, however, and i flourished. luckily for me, my (amazing, supportive, loving) parents understood i did try, and happily accepted my C’s in math and science and my A’s in english and anything art related. i accepted them too, though definitely envied the straight A’s tons of my classmates got.
so, when it came time to apply to college, i was surrounded by kids with ivy league stars in their eyes. they had life goals. they knew what they wanted to do, to become. me? well, i just tried to remember how to breathe when anyone asked me what i wanted to do. first i wanted to write screen plays. then i wanted to teach. then i wanted to simply write. oh, and be a social worker. i set all these goals for myself to reach. but what did i know then anyway, at 17 years old? (hell, what do i know now at 20 years old? (almost 21!!!!))
i did not know i would not be accepted to my first choice school. or my second. or my third. i did not know i would abandon the idea of grad school, which i some how always believed i needed to go to achieve anything in life. i did not know i would learn just how smart i actually am and that book smarts do not mean a person is incredibly intelligent. i did not know much about passion and thinking for yourself.
i am so done setting goals.
i find i often get caught up in working out how to get from point A to point B. it only stresses me out. i am so done working myself up, up, and up only to crash back to a “bleak” reality in which i only blame myself for not achieving more. i am done attempting to live my life under other people’s expectations. i am going to do what i want to do, not what i think i should do. (i remember mentioning the career path of a social worker once to a family member. instead of a “good for you” response, i got a “you know how little money you’re gonna get?” i get this response a lot too when i describe my passions: “cooks don’t make much” and “teaching yoga?…cool…” dang, when did money become such a focal point in our lives?)
the author of the article, leo babauta, wrote a few tips at the end of the article. three really connected with me.
Not just work. Giving up goals works in any area of your life. Take health and fitness: I used to have specific fitness goals, from losing weight or bodyfat to running a marathon to increasing my squat. Not anymore: now I just do it because I love it, and I have no idea where that will take me. It works brilliantly, because I always enjoy myself.
i totally agree! sure, i want to become stronger and more flexible in yoga, but concentrating solely on that only makes me unhappy when i cannot go further in my practice (case in point: yesterday. it was a difficult day on the mat and i berated myself for not “doing better”). i want to enjoy my fitness, not see it as something i need to set goals for.
Let go of plans. Plans are not really different than goals. They set you on a predetermined path. But it’s incredibly difficult to let go of living with plans, especially if you’re a meticulous planner like I am. So allow yourself to plan, when you feel you need to, but slowly feel free to let go of this habit.
this is something i started practicing before i read this article. i recently noticed that, often times, i get tangled up in plans and expectations and am usually disappointed when things do not go according to the “plan.” it caused unnecessary stress for me. so i slowly started letting go of “meticulous” plans. i started living in the moment. in doing so, i realized i want to live in the now, something i have tried to do since returning home last summer. i want to enjoy each moment of time i am alive instead of fretting over how well my plans will unfold. why worry about a future which has yet to happen?
Don’t worry about mistakes. If you start setting goals, that’s OK. There are no mistakes on this journey — it’s just a learning experience. If you live without goals and end up failing, as yourself if it’s really a failure. You only fail if you don’t get to where you wanted to go — but if you don’t have a destination in mind, there’s no failure.
this is the hardest tip for me to achieve. i am, and always have been, incredibly hard on myself. i truly am my own worst enemy and harshest critic. when i mess up, i usually allow my mistakes to sink me into a lethargic funk. my mistakes become the center of my day. but, it has gotten better. i am learning to accept the fact that i am human and humans make mistakes. it really is just a learning experience. “You only fail if you don’t get to where you wanted to go — but if you don’t have a destination in mind, there’s no failure.”
so that leaves me here, in the now. i am excited for the future (for traveling, for teaching yoga, for cooking, for experiencing). but i am even more excited for the now. because it will eventually bring me to infinity…and beyond! (or lunch at cafe gratitude with my mom and brother :)!)