Long Term Goals and Me: A Love/Hate Story

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Five years?
Ok, how about year then?
What about six months, for crying out loud?!
Do you even have any idea what the hell you are doing tomorrow?

That sounds about right.

Setting long term goals was a practice I never even thought about. Why set milestones in your life only to be let down when you are unable to achieve them? Hell, I thought I’d be dead by 30, so what was the point? Life doesn’t exist after 30, right?

So, what is the point? Well, unless I pull a Jim/Janis/Jimi this year for my 27th (chances are not looking good since I don’t smoke weed, have never even seen cocaine, and still confused how one puts heroin into their bodies), 30 is going to come a lot sooner than later and I’m going to be sitting on my couch wondering why I’m idle and NOTHING SCARES THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME MORE THAN THAT PREVIOUS STATEMENT.

Growing up, I always had a vague notion of how my life was going to plan out. I was going to work in a creative business, most likely the film industry, and I was going to get famous in a B-list level way. Like Rick Moranis. The sort of way where only true fans will recognize you on the street and stop and say, “Oh my God, your film The Goldsteins Go To Canada changed my life!”

The how and the when and the where and the why to achieving this didn’t really matter.

There was a point A and a point B and the logistics never even made an appearance in my thoughts.

So, when at the age of 20 I found myself on the fast track to Hollywood, I didn’t question it.

I was a part of everything I ever dreamed of; driving to work past all the beautiful homes once owned by my idols such as Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin, working on studio lots where “Six Feet Under”, “Newsradio”, and “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse” were shot, working for people who I used to sit and stare att for hours and hours in front of the TV, eating dinner with Oscar winners, going to movie premieres, standing back stage at concerts, walking past the line at whatever club on Sunset Boulevard.

That is why it came as a surprise when I woke up one day five years later, realizing I was completely unhappy and lost. Though I wouldn’t trade a second of my time in Los Angeles up until then, I had come to the realization that I had no idea where I was going. I got to the point A, but how was I working towards point B? Hell, I didn’t even know what point B was anymore or if I even wanted it.

This awareness hit around the age of 25. A common age for the twenty-something to realize that maybe they don’t like the industry they have a degree in, maybe they don’t like the city they are living in, maybe it’s time to unload that ball and chain they’ve been dating since college, and maybe it’s time to make a change.

So like any normal 25 year-old going through a quarter-life crisis, I talked a lot about myself, I sat at home and cried while watching reruns of “X-files”, I frequently shouted teen movie dialogue such as, “You just don’t understand me!” to my parents, I realized I wanted to write, and I abandoned my life and moved to another city.

I planted my ass in Austin, Texas and to my surprise, I became happier.

I thought I found the answer to my twenty-something lament.

And then two year later, I woke up and realized I was right back to where I was before. The only difference was that I was older and sweating a lot in the cruel Texan sun.

So what was my answer this time?

Pick up and move to another city, of course.

It wasn’t until my mother shouted for the 50th time said, “You just can’t keep picking up and running away from your problems, Lauren. They’ll always be there”, that I stepped back and really thought about what was going on.

Though I will never admit this to her outside of my blog, my mother is right.

I keep running because I don’t have a plan. I don’t have a plan because I’m afraid that setting up long term goals will constrict me. Not having long term goals makes me feel lost. Feeling lost makes me whiny. No plan + no long term goals + lost feeling + whiny = stereotypical American…and I want none of it.

I sat down the other day to begin writing out my 1, 5, and 10 year life goals and boy, was it difficult. In fact, I’m home from work with something teetering on a migraine just trying to get through this post. Looking deep within yourself is not fun. Realizing that your life ultimately has an expiration date is not fun either.

But I’ll be damned if I wake up one day at 40 asking myself, “How did I get here?”

Do you have a five or ten year plan?

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  • Reply One Blonde Girl July 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Wow. It's like you just crawled inside my head and wrote down all the craziness bouncing around in there.

    I just moved. Again. #5 new town in a year. I'll be moving again in a month or two. I'm hoping that maybe, THIS time I'll be happy and things will work out and I can finally be a real person. I don't have high hopes for myself. In fact, check in with me in two years, and I'm sure I'll be relocating. Again.

    I've never been a long-term planning kind of person. Ever. I always figured that as long as I'm happy with what I'm doing RIGHT NOW, then my life would be complete. Of course, I'm waiting for that to happen too. Maybe long-term planning is the way to go?

    Who knows. I just hate waking up every morning thinking, "Shit. I have to do this again? When does my real life start?" If you ever find the magic answer, please share.

  • Reply EgOiStE July 12, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    What's funny about this sentiment is that if you talk to older people, they look at you like you're crazy. Work is just what they do and it never even occurs to them that they should or could be happy doing it. I've told my mom I have no life and she says you work? you pay your bills? you buy your groceries and clean the house? You watch the evening news? That IS life, son.
    For them, the fun stuff, the stuff that makes life entertaining is a weekend bbq, a trip to a thrift store, a Boat show. Everything else is life.
    The younger folks bought into the post-Generation X malaise and got all Oprah about this whole Life thing. Blogs (and hipsters) gave us this idea that we could all be unique and be happy at it. They lied.

  • Reply Linda July 12, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    i have no idea what i want to be and i'm turning 27 at the end of the month. i don't like my haphazard approach to life's big plans but w/ no idea on what i want to do/be, it's hard to plan out 5-10 years. currently, i'm trying not to be too anxious and just be aware and listen for clues on what path I'd be happy to pursue. sigh, wtf am i going to do with my life!?!?!

    that last line often appears in my journals in frantic handwriting.

  • Reply Elliott July 12, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    I feel you. I think the biggest difference is that you've actually met your goals. It's when you set goals like single-handedly bringing about the Singularity that you can work indefinitely toward an unachievable goal, yet still feel as if you're actually doing something along the way.

  • Reply IT July 12, 2010 at 4:37 pm

    I started an exercise for setting goals. I found out how much work that was and decided I didn't need to set any more goals.

  • Reply Benny July 12, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    This actually made me appreciate that in a way, I'm actually *lucky* to be too lazy/not have enough friends willing to help me pack to pick up and move when I feel like it. (mostly just too lazy) I'll check out other cities/countries and research them and hold them in my mind until I realize, "Oh yeah, this is just a distraction." This means that I'm facing those terrible questions on a daily basis instead of plowing through different cities/different people/etc. Sometimes I wish I was one of those people (not calling you one of them) who actually does just pack up every time they get the urge. But I'm mostly glad that I'm not.
    The funniest part about trying to write down long-term goals is that, despite knowing that I very well might live past 30 or 40, it's still hard to conceive of it. It almost seems to me like an amorphous time when I'll do something and continue doing it forever.

  • Reply Jane Doe July 12, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    It's bullshit to think that all life is is watching the evening news and buying groceries. Figure out what you want and do it. If what you want is to sell everything and move to Tahiti and eat coconut on the beach, do it. If you want to do Something Really Great, do it. If you don't know what you want to do, you've probably surrounded yourself with a bunch of unambitious people. Go away somewhere by yourself for a month or two, or turn off your phone, or whatever. Don't lie to yourself, and don't settle for some stupid rat race just because other people tell you "that's life". Maybe that's THEIR life, but it doesn't have to be ours.

  • Reply Jessica July 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    My goals were (are) education based and I never put a deadline on them. Maybe because I secretly want to win the lottery only to go to college for the rest of my life.

    From ages 16 to about 26 I had strict dates set for everything and had a difficult time reconciling the "past-dues" with myself; it wasn't healthy, so I did away with the specific dates.

    I'm turning 30 this year and that has definitely changed how I approach the decision making process, but maybe not the decisions themselves.

  • Reply Mariah July 12, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Fuck nah. I'm 18, and the idea of growing up and actually making something out of my life scares the living shit out of me. But honestly? I really hope I'm at the point that you're at when I'm your age, because more than anything else that scares me about growing up… actually knowing where I'm going bothers me most. Life would be so boring if we ever actually had anything figured out.
    Keep moving to new cities, never know what you're doing… never, ever get bored.

  • Reply BROOKE July 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    i've never been one to set any goals for myself. sad, maybe? but also… i've noticed, when you try to plan life out, life comes along and says "fuck you!"
    so what's a girl to do?

  • Reply Emily July 12, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    I love the idea of long term goals but to be honest I don't have a clue what I want to do. I'm stuck in a degree course I don't want to do but feel like I should carry on with otherwise everyone will say I told you so.

    I guess my one long term goal is to publish a book, but I've got no idea as to what it would be about. Ideas are always floating around in my head but I never write them down, I'm just scared that one day I'll wake up and realise that I've wasted my life.

    P.S I'm extremely jealous about the 'Pee-Wee's Playhouse' thing, god that would be like my dream.


  • Reply rae July 12, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    Can't fail at a goal you don't have.

    I like moving, too.

  • Reply Vanessa July 12, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Oh, I can relate TOO MUCH to this post. My 26th birthday is just 3 days away, and I'm not doing much of what I thought I would be doing. At this point, I just want to save up a little cash so I have some cushion for "the big move" – where will that move be? No clue yet.

    I definitely feel happy in my personal life – I am lucky to have a pretty wonderful boyfriend and best friend. I love my volunteer work, and I actually just got one of those minimum wage jobs after being unemployed for far too long.

    I know I want to go to grad school, but I'm not sure what I truly want to pursue yet. I get paid to play with dogs all day for the moment, and that's ok. It's low stress, so when I come home I'm happy and ready to "work" creatively on what I love.

    But yes, I want to be doing so much more, and I want to move very soon. I don't feel as though I'm running away from anything, I just want change.

  • Reply Hipstercrite July 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    @One Blonde Girl- You've moved 5 towns in one year? That's amazing! I agree with your entire comment. I always say that I live in the now, but all I keep thinking about is waking up at 40 doing the same thing I'm doing now, having the same questions as I do now, and it scares me so much.

    @Egoiste- Ha! You are so right. When I talk to my grandmother, she doesn't understand. She doesn't understand how I can change companies in two years. I try to explain to her that that is the way it works now, and she just doesn't get it.

    @Linda- I used to get really anxious about this stuff, now I think I just internalize it. I'm not sure which is worse. Worrying about it all the time won't help, but doing something about it will…

    @Elliott- Thanks, but I don't think I've reached my goals because I've never really known them. I mean I have vague goals, but as I get older, I think it's smarter to have more specific goals…?

    @IT- Hahaha…it IS a lot of work, isn't it??

    @Benny- It's insanely difficult to think of where we will be after 40. It's impossible!

    @Jane Doe- I agree with you and hopefully I'm not implying that our long term goals have to be that of society's standards…

    @Jessica- I think that is another post in itself. Realizing when setting goals sucks. Seriously. That's the thing about goals. They are good and bad.

    @Mariah- Ha! I like your attitude. I don't think there is anything wrong with moving to new cities, I just think from here on out, I'm going to plan it and plan what I do once I get there.

    @Brooke- That is an excellent question.

    @Emily- That sounds EXACTLY like me. EXACTLY.

    @Rae- Haha…good point.

    @Vanessa- Will your boyfriend and friend come along?

  • Reply Joseph July 12, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    This seems to be the going story of so many people in Austin. As someone who is about to turn 27 this year myself I also have been struck with these feelings. And I have a long term plan! (sort of, PhD school). It also doesn't help that I am pretty sure I qualified as one of the "sad sacks since college" and have to figure out my place in light of that as well.

    What I am saying is that clearly you are not alone. It's becoming more and more common, which gives me hope that something culturally brilliant is going to come out of all of this.

    This is @faination btw.

  • Reply shedidsaythat July 12, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    First I want to say I've been reading your blog for a while now, and this is my first comment! Posts such as these are why I read, and thanks for helping me understand there are more of us out there than we think struggling with this damn thing called life.

    I think our generation (those 20-somethings right now) have all felt the same way at some point. But this is a reoccuring pattern in my life. I've been running my entire life from wherever I am at the current moment—it's like I'm running away from myself, and I'm surprised when 4 years down the road in the new life I've tried to conjur up, I keep showing up uninvited.

    What I've come to learn out of this—and boy has it been hard—is that no matter where I go, I won't be happy unless I'm happy first. I can't move to be happy. I've wanted to move to Austin for a couple years now because I think THEN I'll finally be happy. Yes, Dallas is the reason I'm unhappy, it can't be me. But how foolish that thought is.

    What I recommend is reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Many people think it's new-agey and full of bull, and maybe it is, but there is much truth in the idea that you have to be fully present to live your life. You have to be happy now. Not in the future. Not when you're married and have kids. Not when you're finally at a job you love. Not when you finally get to that whatever it is that you think you need to be happy. You have to be happy now, or else you won't ever be.

    I know I'm still learnin….

  • Reply Big Mark 243 July 12, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    I don't make a habit of reading comments, so if I mirror someone my apologies.

    So I am 15 years your senior and (temporarily) crashing on the couch in my Dad's living room. How did I get here?

    Lack of focus. The thing that you fear will constrict you I think may actually free you. For instance, my 20's were spent in the Army, in college and pursuing my boxing career. Oh, throw in a 'starter marriage' and you have my life in a nutshell, seriously.

    The first three was all that I was about. The girlfriends came and went but the personal growth, sense of purpose and progress continued. I always thought I was going somewhere and usually I was.

    When I was 33, tragedy brought me to the Metro. I had my own place but no purpose. I wasn't supposed to be here and like water, it wore away at the foundation that was the life that I had. There was no focus and without focus you have no predetermined direction. Without a place to go, wherever you go from there is, nowhere.

    I don't think it is too late for anything that I have gleaned from your journal to happen that you want. I still believe you have a screenplay in you and you have the previous experience in the business to fall back on.

    Yeah, it sounds Orwellian but there is more freedom in being disciplined to your goal than it is wandering around wondering if it is gonna happen now.

    Instead of overthinking it, do it. Make your life happen now. *gets down off soapbox and shuts the heck up!*

    **my long term plan?? been working it for the last three years and will finally take a huge step on the 28th when I fly out west!!

  • Reply Ashton King July 13, 2010 at 11:08 am

    My long-term goal is still essentially the same but as certain short-term goals haven't panned out, it's certainly been modified. I'm working in my field, just on a completely different side of it. I love what I'm doing, but I definitely miss the other aspects. I don't have a 5/10/15 year plan for the simple fact that I don't know if I want to continue in broadcast or try to get back into the print business. The only thing I know for certain is that I want to stay in journalism.

  • Reply Seamus July 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    You really touched a lot of people with what you wrote. You are a very good writer and I think you have a great future as a writer.

    I have today no matter what my plans are. Today, since it's summer I will probably be able to make lunch and sit down and eat lunch with one of my sons and my wife.

    We have a ritual of eating together. We make a point to do it. We sit at the table with no books or magazines or the TV blaring and sit and eat. We talk about things, but most of all we just sit. It's been kinda wonderful.

    I want to be remembered not so much for what I have accomplished in this world, but for the time I have spent with people who I loved
    and who loved me.

    There are some really successful people out there who are so busy that they have no time for anyone. Their "busyness" is so important. I don't want that. Life is too short.

  • Reply Vanessa July 14, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Yes, I think the boyfriend will be coming along – luckily, he's in the same state of mind as I am, which is pretty great. We're up for any location, really.

    Both of us are very independent from our families – this can be a good and bad thing, because I know we both love our families, but we don't feel that intense bond that so many people seem to have with immediate and extended family members.

    Wherever I choose to move, I would love the kind of community and culture you have found in Austin. It sounds pretty spectacular.

  • Reply ashley July 14, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    selfishly, i was holding out hope that for your 28th you would move to america's seat of power…but i suppose thrusting your life towards progress is healthier. i support you in your life!!

  • Reply Nikki July 14, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    giiiiiiirl i hear ya.

  • Reply John B October 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I've enjoyed reading this blog. I used to be in my 20's and 30's so I can relate. I mean REALLY relate. Worrying about the future can get you motivated, but crazy ideas, as long as they're not too crazy and as long as they don't harm anyone else, ought to be acted upon. There won't be regrets. "Follow your dream" is so cliché, but clichés are repeated for a reason. They're true.

    Nobody asked for my advice here, so I'll put it this way "If I had it to do all over again, I would not change a thing EXCEPT that I would be really careful about idling my life away in relationships that are going nowhere; be careful you hang out with. Your "friends" could be mired in fear and lack of ambition and you don't even realize it. And while I was "at it" I would give a little time to my community. You're quite lucky, you know. YOU could make a HUGE difference in someone's life, with just a couple of hours less on the internet. Just a couple.


    No Your Dad, I know

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