There we were, one summer afternoon in the countryside near the ocean having lunch, you, me, my boyfriend (ex) and my dad. I’d just returned from travelling the world, a two year backpacking trip that left my parents wondering if I’d ever settle down. Settling down was the last thing on my mind. Then you asked me that unsettling question that changed our relationship forever: “What do you plan on doing with your life?”
I now realize my father must have been worried about me and confided in you. That question triggered all the emotions of disappointment at returning home, the reality that my mom and dad were no longer together, and my anxiety that perhaps I really was wasting my life. I blew up at you. I don’t remember exactly what I said, just that there was this shocked silence after I spewed venom. Dad and my ex looked down at their plates. No-one spoke for a really long time. Lunch was ruined. I think you got up and left, or maybe it was me. I can’t remember.
I’m sorry G, for blowing up at you. It’s not my usual behaviour and I remember all the times in my life when I’ve behaved uncharacteristically and I can count them on one hand. But I’ve never forgotten your words. I thought I knew everything like all young people think they know everything. I didn’t have a plan and one has to have a plan. I only wish I’d known it sooner. I wish G, that someone had taught me to set goals from an early age, that even travelling in freedom requires planning and goal setting. If I’d set proper goals, perhaps I wouldn’t have returned home prematurely, broke and dissatisfied. Goal setting would have given me the clarity and vision that maybe a proper job wasn’t the way to go for me. Well thought out goals would have pushed me and stretched me until I grew enough to achieve exactly what it is I was meant to achieve in this life.
Now that I’m older, I realize I only have a certain amount of time on this earth. Without clear and well defined goals, it’s hard to know what one really wants and how to get it. I set a lot of goals, weekly, monthly, yearly and every five years. Sometimes my goals work out and sometimes they don’t but at least I have a plan.
G, when you asked me, “what do you plan on doing with your life?”, I wish I’d had a better answer, even if I’d said something trite like, “living it.” You probably could’ve taught me a lot in those tumultuous years of my early adulthood. Anyway G, your words were not wasted. I hope I’ve helped young people, including my own children, make better decisions. I tell them that it may seem like they have a lot of time, but it flies, it really flies. They have to decide what they really want, no matter how outrageous or how different it looks from someone else’s life. I tell them to make a plan, put it on paper, tack it on the wall, look at it every day, and take small steps till they get there. I tell them, G, to never give up but most importantly, I tell them if they’re wrong, it takes a bigger and better person to simply say, “I’m sorry.” So now, over twenty years later, I’m saying I’m sorry. You were just trying to help.
Of course, in the way of life, it isn’t so ironic that I’ve done all this with my own children, told them to set goals, that they need to plan for success, asked them what they plan to do in the future but I’ve heard, at least once, “Leave me alone Mom. I just want to enjoy my life. I want the freedom to do what I want to do.”
It must be an age thing.