Goals, Growth, and a Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 25th birthday. Other than posting this, my birthday plans involve spending time with family and eating cheesecake. My original idea for this post was to write one of those “Letter To Me” things addressed to my 15 year old self (since 10 years is a nice round number). Part of that’s still here, but it’s not the focus. Why? because while a post all about me could be mildly entertaining, I doubt anyone will find it helpful. Instead, I want to encourage you to join me in thinking about how you’ve changed in the past ten years, and what you want the next 10 years to look like.

If you’re like me, looking at a more narrow time frame of your life to inspect how you’ve changed can be disheartening. I don’t usually feel like I’ve made much progress in a week or a month or sometimes even a year on things like personal growth, forwarding my publishing goals, and growing my business. But look at 10 years, and you can see how much you’ve accomplished, some of it in little steps that you probably didn’t notice when you were walking them."Happy Birthday To Me" marissabaker.wordpress.com

10 Years Ago

I tried to look back at my journal for the year I turned fifteen, but the only entry between November 2002 and June 2006  is an undated poorly-spelled complaint about not having many friends or knowing how to talk to people. It does look like a clump of pages was torn out, but I don’t remember why. Even without a record of my precise thoughts, though, there are plenty of specific things I remember that are pertinent to how much I’ve changed. Setting aside the potential implications contacting your past self might have on the time-space continuum, here are a couple suggestions I’d share with me then:

Dear 15-year-old-me,

Stop reading the Thoroughbred book series right now. I mean it — take that stack beside your bed back to the library immediately. Why? because you’re going to feel guilty when you turn sixteen without having ever been asked out on a date, because some of the characters teased Christina for turning “sweet sixteen and never been kissed.” Which is just plain ridiculous. And speaking of kissing, stop reading the Hardy Boy/Nancy Drew cross-over books as well. You don’t have to be 5′ 3″ and taste like mint for a guy like Joe Hardy to like you (and do you really want him to? this version is kissing a different girl in every book). Honestly, you have poor taste in fictional men. Go read Jane Austen.

Be nicer to your siblings. My brother asked me to include this, but he’s right. They’ll still be some of your best friends when you’re 25, and if you’d treated them as well as they deserved you’re probably all be even better friends. And on the subject of friends, don’t give-up because you can’t seem to make any new ones. You haven’t even met the person who will become your best-friend-who’s-not-a-sibbling yet.

Love,

25-year-old-me

When I was fifteen, I was still convinced that I didn’t need a plan for after high school because within a few years I was going to meet Prince Charming and live happily ever after. Aside from reading and my homeschool work, the only thing I really had interest in was gardening (I ran a little roadside greenhouse selling plants for two years in high school). I hadn’t even started writing yet (I mean, not seriously writing. I would jot down ideas), or really even cooking. Now I list writing and cooking as two things I can’t imagine not doing, largely because I love them so much.

  • What important aspects of your life now were missing 10 years ago?

Now

One thing I haven’t touched on yet is my spiritual walk. I knew at 14 that I wanted to be baptized, but I couldn’t find a minister who didn’t think I was too young. Which I probably was, but I was pretty sure of my faith when I turned 15. Without getting into too much details, that changed after I graduated high school. While I never actually left “the church,” when I again decided to be baptized at 19 it felt almost like coming back, and I’ve seen tremendous growth since then. Not, like, all the time of course — I have plenty of set-backs and doubts like everyone else, but I also think recognizing the fact that we’re nowhere near perfect and we can’t move toward perfection without God is a huge step towards spiritual growth.

  • How is your spiritual growth now different than it was 10 years ago?

As you all know if you’ve been reading this blog on any kind of a regular basis, my writing is now a huge part of my life (this blog, fiction, and copywriting). I love to cook and bake. I have an outlet for sharing my faith. I have a few close, stable friendships with dear people who I hadn’t even met 10 years ago and now can’t imagine life without.

  • Have you met any people who are now your “best friends” within the past 10 years?

Oh, and regarding the whole panic-about-not-having-a-boyfriend thing, I’ve still never been in a serious relationship and I’m actually okay with being unmarried at 25. I still want to get married, but I know that I wasn’t really ready for that kind of commitment during the time frame I was expecting marriage to happen and I’m willing to entertain the possibility that the same thing is true now. More importantly, I’ve actually started turning over my worries about the timing for this and other goals to God.

10 Years Ahead

  • Where do you want to be in 10 years?

My first impulse to this question is, “I have no idea.” I didn’t plan 10 years ago to end up where I am today, and I don’t really know if having a 10 year plan now would be any more advantageous. But I keep hearing about the importance of having a vision for your future, finding your passion, planning a life mission. And I can see the advantages.

In my life, the time period where I’ve felt most productive was my last three years of college. I had a goal (graduate with Latin honors and research distinction in my major), and I worked toward it. The more focused I got on projects, the more productive I was. For example, November 2011 I was was doing the final editing and writing on my thesis, wrote a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo, and taking a full class load that included French (my hardest subject). I was exhausted by the end of the month, but I felt great (and yes, I met those academic goals next year when I graduated).

That’s kinda missing now, and it’s not a good thing. I don’t like being unfocused and not having a more definite goal to work toward. My faith provides a goal for spiritual growth toward eternal life, but it’s also supposed to be an integral part of my life and keep me moving forward personally and professionally as well. I need a direction on a physical level to go along with my direction on a spiritual level.

For my readers who are MBTI fans, personality type plays a role as well — INFJs like me must have a goal. We hate not having something clear (and preferably world-altering) to work toward. So, yea. Making better goals is next on my list.

  • What steps can you take now to move forward with focus and purpose into the next 10 years?
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