There’s a person who I barely know and rarely see who for whatever reason has decided I am a worthwhile project to invest his time into. I frequently seek his guidance and advice for two reasons, 1) while I adore my mom, dad, best friends, husband, daughter, and all other family members, they are often overly optimistic, like the parents of the worst singer in the American Idol auditions – viewers are left saying, “Really? Seriously? How is that screeching NOT making you want to bang your head against a wall?” And 2) he normally prompts me to perform an analysis I might not have thought about before. Case in point: not long before I swallowed the bravery pill and put in my two weeks notice, he told me that to get to where I needed to go, I had to write it all down, put everything on paper: goals, dreams, limitations, leaving no stone unturned. I’ve always prided myself on being THAT girl who writes every little thing down in ever-changing handwriting that screams, “wow, my hand hurts now, let me just change it up, ouch, cramp, oh I kind of like that new loopy scribble, let’s go with it,” knowing all the while arthritis is in my very near future. For every major or minor decision in life, there is an accompanying spreadsheet outlining the pros and cons both quantitatively and qualitatively and a key that assigns appropriate values to the data, so that I always know if a particular qualitative measure might outweigh the quantitative… Okay, maybe I have lost you now, but I am quite proud of this practice that I borrowed from my college statistics class (which I barely passed). I digress.
When I took a moment to review what I thought was an exemplary personal analysis of my life goals, I realized it was written about 8 years ago when I was still major-hopping through my undergrad program and the world was at my fingertips. And then Rod Stewart’s raspy voice taunting “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger, ooh la la” commenced to play through my head. I tucked that one-pager away and took my friend’s advice. This proved to a little bit harder than I anticipated, so much so that I considered writing a pros and cons sheet for this practice and reminded myself it would be completely contrived and inaccurate-the end result would simply be this, “Don’t do this because you don’t want to,” which is less than scientifically sound.
So over the period of a week and at least 5 front and back pages of recycled brown paper, I wrote my whole life down in true Einstein style-scribbles, lines, and charts, none of which made any sense to anyone but me. And I knew that right then it might make sense to me, but in about 6 months when I needed to revisit my road map, I would only be confused and frustrated by the lack of color coded organization. Enter Microsoft Word Table Design templates, and at least 6 categorized spreadsheets, and it was done. Colors, categories, and tables didn’t do much to make it any less discombobulated or disoriented, but I at least felt better about its presentation.
I sent it back to my friend and a few of the above listed cheerleaders who I knew would respond with something positive to make me feel less crazy, but the glaring conclusion involved me walking in my boss’s office without any sort of employment back-up plan and saying this is just not for me anymore. Okay – I did that, the adrenaline has worn off, and my personal pat on the back is fading into frequent mindless inner monologue.
More than that, now I’m forced to confront that highlighted column filled with the limitations I’m all too familiar with, the things that immediately bring this dreamer screeching down to earth. Not only do I loathe thinking about these limitations, I resent having to read them on paper even more. Not because they’re my Everest or they’re horribly debilitating, in fact, some of the things that keep me from doing what I hope to eventually do, are the parts of my life that bring some twisted, inexplicable joy. For me, limitations remind me I might have to pare down some of these dreams and give myself a reality check. And part of that reality check is that not all of the limitations can be overcome. I might NOT actually be able to have my cake and eat it too in some areas… just when I was looking forward to a life of balanced bliss.
Now I think it’s time to acquaint you with the other side of my life – the part that is entirely at the mercy of the active United States Army. I think I said a few sentences ago that my limitations are not my Everest, but I might have been too polite. So for my next topic, forgive me, I might step onto a mile high soap box for a paragraph or two.
Image from http://www.mspmentor.net/2010/02/11/master-msps-2010-reality-check/