This week I celebrate my 37th birthday. It seems like an odd number, but it has real significance for me.
When I was 26 years old, I was in the midst of a messy divorce, a new career, and a move to the middle of nowhere. It was a scary time in my life, and I had to come to terms with a lot of changes happening at once. Tools I’ve used to help me deal with overwhelming challenges are goals and plans.
So when I was 26 years old, I set out my 10 year plan.
#1 start a family
#2 get my PhD
#3 work exclusively for myself, as a consultant or business owner.
Those were my 10 year goals, and much of my life planning has centered around those priorities for me. So where am I am, 10 years later?
#1 Start a family. Well, that goal has been soundly accomplished. As of this summer, we will be the family for five years. I actually set the goal when I didn’t have a long term partner in mind; I had just met Jason and wasn’t planning on sticking with him, necessarily! But here we are almost 10 years later, him and I together, and we share our lives with the best two kids in the world.
#2 Get my PhD. Well I started off strong on this one. I actually had my Masters degree by the time I was 28. However, my PhD is unlikely to happen anytime in this decade. Other priorities got in the way, such as being with children, paying the bills, and starting our own business. Honestly, the years that we have waited to open our business and to complete our second adoption, have put off this and my goal to work for myself behind. I still plan on completing my PhD, but maybe not until our business is making enough money for me to be financially independent, ie: footloose and fancy free to spend the majority of my time reading, researching, and traveling.
#3 The third goal was for me to work exclusively for myself. Let’s get one thing straight… I am a good professor, and a very good teacher; I enjoy the students, research, and many of colleagues immensely. But I don’t generally like being supervised. I have had some great bosses along the way, that has made it much easier. But I much prefer to follow my passions, nurture my creativity, and push my own boundaries, instead of somebody else’s.
I will continue to teach and research over the next few years, but I still have this goal of my primary income coming from my own business, or businesses.
There are many things that I didn’t know about the last 10 years, when I started that decade of goals. For one thing, I didn’t know that at the ripe old age of 28, I would get a crippling disease. My rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis have had huge influence on my life… In ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I used to have super human amounts of energy; now I just have the energy of a normal person, and an overwhelming need for sleep.
I didn’t know how involved our lives would be in Ethiopia. It was always part of my planning to adopt children, but I didn’t know where from, and I certainly didn’t know that I would start a charity in the country of my children’s birth. Our entire family’s commitment and love of Ethiopia is one of those strange blessings that you never predict.
I never knew how much I would love my children… And what good friends we would become. I was never a person who wanted to be a teacher or hang around with little kids, so I have to admit that I have treated my children as “small people,” more than “just kids”. But in them, I have found a wonderful friendship. I also had no idea, on the flipside, how completely annoying and overwhelming children could be! I didn’t realize what massive time and resources, that we would choose to invest in our children and our family.
So what will the next 10 years bring? I think I am going to have to give this some thought. My ten year goals were very private, and only a few people knew them. But it didn’t mean that they didn’t influence my life, Jason and I’s life, constantly. The next decade will be that of a growing family. OMG, in 10 years, my daughters will be either heading off to university, art school, chef school, or backpacking across the world. That’s crazy to think about. The next 10 years will be investing in them and helping them become the compassionate, responsible, and adventurous people I hope they will become. But what for me? What for Jason? This is food for many discussions.
Luckily, we have our 10 year anniversary coming up soon. Maybe we will spend some honeymoon time and figure out these next 10 year goals together…