November 23, 2012

dream a little dream

A gift from a friend years ago, I now have this hanging on my office wall.
While killing a little time Wednesday, I decided to sort through my various folders and documents on Google Drive. I know. I lead a super exciting and enthralling life. You don't have to tell me. It's my life. I know. Sorting through the files, I found a mixture of old class assignments, works in progress and book ideas. Most of these are backed up on my computer and flash drives, so no big surprises there.

Then I came to the oldest file, dated from Spring 2008, a couple of months before I graduated college. Titled, "Life Plan," I knew what it was before I opened it. One Saturday night while working the cops desk at the newspaper I interned at my senior year, I wrote down a list of goals for my life (at least until I turn 30), breaking them down by years and milestones. I've always been a goal-oriented person who thinks like this, I've mentioned it before here and here. Granted, this was much more freaky and weird, but you get the idea.

Admittedly, I still find myself jotting down my goals (though now I ditch the age). Just last week, I halfheartedly wrote down six goals, again titling them "Life Plan." If you follow me on Twitter you saw it already, but here it is for the rest of you:

Again, I made this one somewhat tongue in cheek, but the one from almost five years ago was serious. In the interest of giving you full-disclosure to my lifelong insanity, and to give you better insight to my point in this ramble-some post, I'm giving you, my virtual besties, a look at the full list as it was when I opened the file.

May 2008 (Age 21)
  • Graduate with bachelor’s degree in news-editorial from University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
  • Start internship with the Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale.
  • Start writing books again. Be organized and disciplined (goal: finish writing one by July, finish second by September).
August 2008 (Age 22)
  • Get a job at a newspaper, publishing firm or non-profit somewhere outside of Nebraska.
  • Try to find a literary agent to publish completed works (fiction).
  • Continue writing.
  • Find some writing buddies to share my work with.
  • Start saving money for grad school, Europe trip.
July 2009 (Age 23)
  • Start a new, higher-ranking job. Try for another state.
  • Continue writing and endeavor to get published.
Fall 2009 (Age 23)
  • Take tests, start preparation to get into grad school.
Spring 2010 (Age 23)
  • Apply to graduate schools with emphasis in either mass communications or women’s literature.
June 2010 (Age 24)
  • Quit the newspaper business to pursue my studies.
  • See if I can make arrangements with some of my past employers to freelance for pay if the fancy strikes me.
  • Start 8-week travel through Europe for pleasure and research (attempt to get advance to write book, otherwise, store up information).
August 2010 (Age 24)
  • Start graduate school. Take out student loan.
  • Start teaching as a graduate assistant.
  • Start research for non-fiction books about: women's suffrage worldwide (politics), contemporary women feminists (women’s studies), feminism and gender roles in romance novels (English), Disney princesses (media portrayal), historical women writers perhaps with an emphasis in the pioneer times (English). Use one of these topics as my thesis.
May 2011 (Age 24)
  • Spend summer studying abroad in England. Or, have a work exchange for the summer to gain more overseas experience.
May 2012 (Age 25)
  • Graduate with master’s degree in either mass communications or literature. Get an emphasis in gender studies either way and perhaps a minor in the other view.
June 2012 (Age 26)
  • Publish thesis into book. Publish other researched materials into books. If possible, publish some works while still in graduate school. Early is fine.
  • Continue to publish fiction books.
  • MAYBE see if I can get a gig freelance writing for magazines.
  • Find a place to live and be inspired.
Age 28
  • Start work as writing coach. Travel the country (world?) teaching people the art of telling a good story. Work to coach both fiction and non-fiction writers perhaps.
  • Reveal writing identities, if all ventures have been successful.
Age 30
  • Buy my own book shop in a smaller community, perhaps, with emphasis in specialty books. Sell my own books there in Nora Roberts-esque way.
  • Buy and start to build my dream home.
  • If I am so inclined, start making plans to get married and have a family. This could wait.

If you've made it this far, then I can only imagine what you're thinking. "Wow. This bitch is crazy." And you wouldn't be entirely wrong. When I looked at this list, my first thought was, "Dude, I was cray cray." Then, I looked at the post-it note on my computer and realized, I still think like this. Always looking forward and wanting more. Setting huge goals, but not quite reaching them.

Now that we've addressed my complete insanity, let's take a quick moment to look at this list and consider the content. I'm now 26, and what have I done? Truthfully, not much on this list.

My first impulse is to be a little bummed out thinking about all of the dreams younger Laura had and how little (OK, how not at all) my life resembles the one I imagined. But I'm not.

Did I fail at this list? Probably. Have I failed at life, though? Absolutely not.

My life took a different path within the first year outlined on my list. I saw a different world and learned valuable lessons 21-year-old me could not have imagined. The good and the bad from those experiences have inspired countless story ideas, gave me the strength to start writing books again, but never destroyed my ability to dream for bigger and better.

I have a job I'm lucky to have. I have family and friends. I have two completed manuscripts hoping to be published one day. I still have dreams. I see no harm in making the goals. Dreams keep us moving forward, without them we stay put forever, and I'm not one to do that.

But I've learned thing or two. Make those dreams, but be flexible. Take a chance or detour, even if it was unplanned. Be less specific. Don't measure your life by numbers or years. Never spend too much time thinking about the future or bemoaning the past that you can't appreciate the present.

Have dreams. Let them guide you. But don't be afraid to change them.

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