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Why I Don’t Believe In Goals

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord Of The Rings

I had an unsettling interchange with my daughter the other day. 
She was trying to decide between two apartments and had drawn up a list of pros and cons for each.
When she was done, she showed me the list and asked me if I agreed with her assessment.
“Yes, this makes a lot of sense,” I said. And it did.
And then she turned her face to look at me.
She looked at me intently.
“Mom, have you achieved your goals in life?”
Not an especially startling question.
Startling nevertheless in the way it makes you think.
All at once, time collapsed.
And I found myself thinking over 46 years on this earth, in the space of about 3 seconds.
I had to be honest.
“No,” because when I was young I had only one goal in mind: To be a “big career person.” As in a:

  • Lawyer
  • Fashion designer
  • Magazine editor
  • Maybe, a famous writer
  • Or something involving a creative field
“No,” because none of those goals happened.
I thought, in a swoosh of thought, of all the women I knew who had become “big career people.”
None of them made the choices that I did.
They didn’t get married young and then stay home with the children.
I looked at my daughter, my beautiful flesh and blood.
And before I could think, the words came tumbling over themselves.
“When I had you, my entire goal became you.”
A day or two before, my other daughter had asked me what it feels like to be pregnant.
“Did everybody treat you better?”
“No, not really,” I said. “I had to do everything just the same as though I weren’t.”
I remembered throwing up all the time, in little baggies that I used to take on the commuter bus.
In the bathroom at work.
At home in the toilet.
All the time, all the time, I had the worst morning sickness.
But I loved it, every second of it.
“Being pregnant is the best feeling in the world,” I said to her.
It is.
It actually is.
“Because you have a human life inside of you. Nobody else can ever know how that feels.”
She looked at me.
“When I was pregnant with you and your sister, those were the happiest times of my entire life.”
Though I was sick as a dog, that statement remains true.
When you fall in love, when you have kids, when you’re doing what you’re really passionate about, time stops.
When you’re doing what you need to do to survive, you aren’t operating according to a five-year strategic plan. You’re living.
I once had a dream that I could live my life based on some abstract goals.
But in the living of it, goals have become largely irrelevant.
The most I can do, experience has taught me, is try to make a difference where I land.
By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Photo by Hermann via Pixabay (Public Domain). The author hereby releases this work into the public domain.

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