On Thursday I turn 34, and leave my early 30s behind forever. Mid thirties, here I come. Yikes. Mid 30s is the time of professional accomplishment, the earning years, family time. The time of exploration is over; now it's time to get done what it is you're supposed to do. It's a lot to live up to, the associations I have about this life stage. No more laughing, no more fun -- now it's time to Get Things Done. People in their mid thirties are Definitely Grown Ups. I was more grown up when I turned 30 than I am now -- rocketing along in my responsible professional career, a new home- and boat-owner, socking away savings. And I'm happier now, I think, although making sluggish and wobbly progress along a much less well-defined path. So it's hard for me to figure out what my path through the Mid 30s should look like.
Between this occasion (birthdays are always a time of self-reflection for me), and the end of the year with its inevitable assessment of 2006 and aspirations for 2007, and being here in a strange town with a new sweetie, I've been thinking a lot about what I want for the upcoming year. I'll blurt some of it out here.
1) Do less. I am mesmerized by possibility, and I like keeping options open, which means I don't choose very easily, and I'm always looking to expand things, to create new possibilities, to dream things up, to try things on. I don't think I'll ever lose this trait, and there are things about it that are good -- enthusiasm, imagination, flexibility. But it means I overbook myself and I don't acknowledge that I can't do everything I want to do, can't have meaningful friendships with everyone I would like being friends with. I don't admit how much I need downtime, because *up* time kind of dazzles me. I am often late because in my head I don't recognize the true amount of time a commute takes -- I refuse to acknowledge that those "in between" times are as real as the events they separate. I carry too many things out the door, always imagining that maybe I'll have a chance to read the paperback or finish the crossword or dash off a letter or maybe do a little sketch or go for a run before I come back, and it's never true, and instead I wobble out the door dropping things that I don't need, and my car is a mess and when I don't dash off a letter I feel a little tiny bit like I didn't use my time wisely. And it's just a bad habit of the way I look at the world. I don't acknowledge reality. I don't like to choose. I don't like to admit that I can't do everything. This is something I want to work on, because living this way isn't really as much fun as it seems like it. I know I can feel clearer, more spacious and focused about how I live. It means I will do less, with fewer people. I think I'm finally ready to do that.
2) Set clear, hard, attainable fitness goals that require me to learn new skills and go beyond my current fitness level. Do this with a friend. The times I've done this have been wonderfully rewarding. Right now I'm staying at a base level of fitness but I'm not making progress or training my body to do anything new. That's a pleasure I want back in my life.
3) Take care of things. This is related to doing less, I think. I am generally not that interested in physical objects, and I tend to be careless about them. I've always focused a lot more on people than on things, and I think there's a mental prejudice against materialism that makes me feel like attention to things should be avoided with a self-righteous averted gaze. The truth is that there's a satisfaction for me in stewardship that I don't acknowledge. I'd like to put more energy into it. I'd like to keep fixing up my house and my yard. I'd like to mend the buttons and the holes on the clothes I have stuffed in a bag, or else get rid of the bag entirely. This probably means having fewer things and cherishing what I have more. That seems like a good trade.
4) Go outside almost every day. Nothing makes me happier than time outdoors, the sun on my skin, noticing something about the way the air feels or the water smells or what birds or bugs or plants belong in a certain place. This is a pleasure that I have in my life now and that I want to make sure to keep paying attention to. Related to this is a sub goal: be on or around boats as much as possible. Boats are home for me: comfortable and yet endlessly interesting.
5) Set clear creative goals, akin to the fitness goals in number 2, and find a friend or friends to do them with. Learn new things. I know I can write, indeed that I need to to be happy and to understand my world, but I've not been ambitious about setting aspirations and training for them, about getting support and finding resources that will help me get there. I used to draw more, and when I did I loved it. I've begun playing with my digital camera and find I like that a lot more than I expected. Like #3, there's a pleasure in making things, in creating beauty in different forms, that I haven't fully admitted or explored.
There are more, but that's enough for now.