Last night, while walking through our developing suburban neighbourhood with my dude, checking out who had new sod and accidentally peeping in un-window-treated windows at people going about their evenings, I realized something rather important about myself. It was a rather baffling epiphany, but when I ran the events of my life through the idea, I realized it was true.
I was feeling pretty chipper because the pool and deck construction in our backyard is reaching its final stages. (As an aside, it's been an ongoing ordeal because our house sits on a high water table, which means that there are freshwater streams flowing freely beneath the surface of our backyard. The pool guy has congratulated us on being tied for the most difficult pool installation of his career thus far, and he has been doing it for quite a while. So that's been fun.) So anyway, there we were, walking along in the warm summer night, and dude asked me if I'd ever imagined I'd own a pool.
I laughed and replied in the negative. And that's when I realized that I had never imagined myself doing anything. I have never had goals. Let me repeat that, because it sounds ridiculous: I have never consciously driven myself to accomplish anything.
The only exception I can think of is the desire to go to university, but even that had no end other than an education. I wanted to go to university and I did. School was never hard for me, I got a good scholarship, and I went. I never dreamed of going to university one day, never dreamed of walking across that stage to get my degree. It just happened.
And, that, the fact that it just happened, has been the guiding force of my entire life.
Although I did occasionally think about the style of wedding dress I would wear if I got married, I never dreamed of finding a nice boy and getting married. Nice boys have just always been around.
I never dreamed of owning my own house, let alone a house with a pool. We bought our first little condo because it was more practical than paying rent, made some money when we sold it, built an inexpensive little house with that money, made some money when we sold it, built a slightly bigger house on a beautiful lot at the edge of town, built a pool because what else were we going to do with that yard? (Also, I have bad knees, and I enjoy the thought of swimming low-impact laps in the sunshine, and of splashing around with my friends and family because summer needs to be celebrated.)
I never dreamed of owning a nice car. Dude's job pays the lease on a fancy car, while I still drive that piece of shit Honda (which, incidentally, I have reached a truce with. I even sort of like her now that I've determined to just drive her into the ground).
I never dreamed of having a successful career that I actually (mostly) enjoyed. I got constructively dismissed from my shitty retail job and then my current teaching gig just sort of evolved over the years.
I never dreamed of having children, ever. (And then I ablated my uterus and almost died, but at least I don't have to worry about accidentally getting pregnant anymore.)
All those so-called milestones that society creates were never milestones for me. They were just things that happened. So when people congratulated me on them, it always felt a little odd. What exactly have I achieved? Everybody needs to live somewhere. Everybody needs to get around in some fashion. Everybody needs to make enough money to live. (Not everybody needs to get married or have children.)
I have never placed expectations on myself to do or be or accomplish anything, other than a person who tries to be kind instead of an asshole (and I think I succeed, at least most of the time). It's a very relaxing way to live, not worrying about crossing those items off of society's list, those items that identify you as a "successful" human being. Success is relative, and the moment you try to categorize it according to someone else's criteria is the moment you let society win. Fuck society. Society is full of shit.
My life has not been without its hardships (poverty, divorce, mental illness, my mother's aneurysm, the deaths of many pets and a few people), but no one's is. And I have certainly worked at things, just never with a single-minded, Gatsby-ian focus on the eventual culmination of effort. So, while I am infinitely grateful for the way good things have just sort of happened to me, I also firmly believe that this openness to the world, this ah well attitude, has played a major role in allowing the good things to happen.
If I can end with a bit of wisdom that you might also be able to apply to your own life, it is this: sure, it's good to have goals. But it's okay not to have them, too.