I wasn’t very excited about my 25th birthday. I felt lackluster, adrift, and uncomfortable. I had been struggling with my mental health, as well as to make ends meet, for a long time. I was unsure of my future, and ashamed that I hadn’t achieved more. Up until that point, I maintained cognitive dissonance regarding my direction; because I never could pinpoint an exact course to take, I abstained from taking one altogether. A sense of urgency thumped against my ribs–do something! I grabbed an empty notebook page and began to brainstorm things I could do. Then, things that I wanted. Things that I held away from myself because “I don’t have the time, talent, money, resume, etc.” and closed my heart off from. Instead of saying, “I should become X,” I allowed myself to develop a diverse group of intentions I wanted to pursue. First I fantasized, then I narrowed those ideas down to goals, and finally, I set a deadline for achieving them. They are mostly things I knew I would regret not doing, with a few for career and self-improvement. They’re all challenges; chances to grow, refine, and create myself. They became my “Before You Turn 30” list. I took each goal and divided it into steps, with a general timeline. It’s been about 20 months since I sat down and wrote out my aims, and I can happily say that I’ve made progress on each one.
So, guess what one of my goals was? To become a yoga teacher! (Imagine confetti here. Or at least all the party-related emoji.) A big smile swept through me today, when I realized that this was a goal I set almost 2 years ago. It took a lot of patience to get here, and it’s really happening. In less than 48 hours!
This week, some of my new yoga supplies came in the mail. I upgraded to a Jade Harmony mat (the grip is incredible), and purchased blocks, a strap, and a meditation cushion for my home practice. Despite being a regular yoga student for over seven years, I never invested in these; I didn’t think of myself as “good enough” to deserve props like blocks or cushions at home. Now that I see the long view on self-investment, as a by-product of my goal-setting journey so far, that belief was so self-limiting! Having extra instruments at my disposal would have improved my practice all along–and they weren’t more expensive than dinner at a restaurant. Having spent many years assailed by bills, I understand the difficulty of funding activities outside the realm of necessity. But I can also say that money I’ve set aside (slowly, or at least semi-reasonably) to spend on my wellbeing has always given me the energy, confidence, and resilience to make wiser choices in my relationships, to take better care of what I have, and to seek out better opportunities for myself. Lovely lightning bolts of poems, essays, and clarity in editing come to me more often when I recharge my spiritual and/or earthly batteries.
I’m also extremely grateful when I reflect on how things are coming along, because I didn’t get here alone. It’s amazing what happens when you set positive intentions for yourself: people will help you. Even when you don’t tell them about what you’re trying to do! This both is, and isn’t, magic. In a very practical way, when you find the self-regard and courage that it takes to really set an intention in your heart, you behave differently. You start to do things your future self would thank you for, and you feel better about living, whether or not your current circumstances have changed much yet. I found that I started to see myself as more of a fluid continuum, rather than a fixed personality, and this allowed me to feel less embarrassed around, afraid of, or judged by, others. That shift let me be more present, a better listener, and more engaged with loved ones and friends, and new people as well. You can see the energetic dominos here. Simultaneously, I made more connections that were unexpected, and positive. New possibilities appeared, and while not all of them were objectively big moves, each one seemed to bring me a tiny bit closer to my desired goals.
The best thing about the list is that now that I’m actually in the thick of it, I love it. What was once impossible isn’t even scary anymore! Stressful? Yup. Worth it? Totally.