This article is part of our series, “Lessons to My Younger Self.”
Put it on paper. That’s the advice I’d give my younger self: to write down my thoughts, dreams, goals, and desires for the future—from the big and lofty to the specific and mundane. I’d have used my FiloFax. You can use whatever format you will have access to in 10, 20, or 30 years. But write those thoughts down in a place you won’t forget. It sounds simple, but if you actually take the time to do it, a written record of your goals can be a powerful anchor for your future.
You may not fully realize it now, but your 20s are amazing years. You have endless time to yourself, and the world is still your oyster. You’re old enough to think about adulthood but young enough to still have hopes, dreams, and idealism. My advice to you is to capture those thoughts now—while they are stll emerging and while your brain still perceives the world that way.
I vaguely recall many times in my 20s when I plotted out my future and dreamed up ideal scenarios. I imagined cool jobs, beautiful homes, exciting travel, fortune, romance, children (including their names), and giving back to the world.
But out of all of those dreams, I can only recall a few specifics—a fantasy about buying and refurbishing old barns, plans to open the ultimate denim bar, a hope that someday I would have a son as adorable and inquisitive as a little boy I overheard on an airplane, and my goal to find a career and husband that would allow for shared part-time work and part-time child care (yeah, a little hard to fathom now, but a girl can dream!).
Today, the word that best describes my life is “busy.” It’s certainly not a glamorous word, but it sums it up well. The demands of an intense job and motherhood—not to mention maintaining a healthy marriage, friendships, and community involvement—crowd out any space or time for reassessing my life goals. In the moments I am alone, my brain furiously reviews what I need to do at work or with my family (and the needs always feel greater than the time allotted). Not only do I lack the time to think or dream “big,” but hitting 40 definitely gave me a sense that the clock is ticking. With this sensation comes a reduced imagination about future possibilities. Holding onto idealism is not easy with age.
I am grateful to have found a career path which has been exciting, fun, challenging, and rewarding. I am proud of my kids, who are sweet, bright, engaged little people. And I still love my husband very much and feel lucky to have him in my life.
But occasionally I find myself wondering if I’m totally satisfied. Is this what I wanted? Have I achieved my goals? Shouldn’t I feel this sense of peace that I am keeping pace with my dreams? But life is moving so fast it’s hard to remember exactly what those dreams were. And for those of you wired to be high achievers, you know that satisfaction is hard to come by.
But I’m guessing that if I had kept a list, I’d be quite satisfied with the number of items that would be checked off by now. Sure, I’d probably have to do some translating from fantasy to reality (remodeling my own house might have to substitute for refurbishing beautiful old countryside barns). But I suspect it would remind me of how far I’ve come. And as we are each our own best champion and worst critic, a tangible scorecard might help ease some of the lingering wonder. Besides, who doesn’t love the feeling of a list checked-off?
For more in this series, check out: Lessons To My Younger Self