The other evening while savoring a tasty Buffalo chicken sandwich at a Palm Springs eatery, I experienced an epiphany as I gazed out upon a burnt orange and red sunset – I realized that I had pretty much achieved all my goals in life.
Then, as quick as that, a lightning bolt came crashing down upon my euphoria – “So, now what?”
Don’t get me wrong, I am BEYOND grateful for everything I’ve been blessed with, but as I near my sixth decade occupying real estate upon this planet, I find myself pondering: “What of the future?”
How does one reconcile a beauteous past in context of the years to come?
Hmmmm, pause for consideration.
When I graduated from college almost 40 years ago, I had one ambition – to become a writer and earn an annual salary of $35k. That was such a lofty goal at the time – back then $35,000 a year was a lot of money.
Little did I realize that over the years my modest goal would expand far beyond what I could imagine. Then, I was living in a converted garage and earned $600 a month – before taxes!
As my writing skills improved, my housing, salary, knowledge and goals grew. By the time I was 26, I was a supervisor at a newspaper; by 27, I had purchased a condo using money I cash-advanced from a credit card. I didn’t see myself as particularly ambitious, only that there were things that needed to be done, and that I may as well be the one to do them.
By my mid-thirties I was in a job that allowed me to travel all over the country. This was fantastic as I had never really traveled much, so I relished the opportunity of jaunts to Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, New York and the like.
My taste for travel soon became a thirst, and it quickly oozed beyond this continent. Europe, Asia, Australia, these were all places where I traveled to find that no matter where you go, human beings are intrinsically all the same.
Each time I returned, I was greeted by homes which were far grander than that first converted garage.
Over the years, I was continuously drawn to Palm Springs, it was and is the only place on the planet where I feel truly at peace. In thinking of retirement, I knew this was the place where I’d end up.
My final job before retirement was like a dream come true – I call it the cherry on the top of my life’s sundae. I ran a department, was part of the executive management team and had always been good at saving, so I was able to retire at age 57.
You ask, “Why quit your dream job when you’d finally reached your career goal?” You see for 35 years, as great as most of it all was, I had this nagging ambition in the back of my head – I wanted to write a novel. Like the other goals, I was not going to be satiated until I added “novelist” to my resume.
So, I quit, packed up and moved full-time to Palm Springs.
Amidst this, I found myself in a relationship which seemed destined for the altar. After a few years, I was able to add “married” to my list of accomplishments, and as my spouse still works, we travel back and forth between Los Angeles and the desert.
Palm Springs is a fantastic place to write and there is so much serenity here, so easing into the rhythm of creative writing came easily. Late last year, I published “Coconut,” the novel that had been held captive in my brain for all too many decades.
And, that is how I came to sit upon a bar stool realizing that, yup, I had pretty much achieved the goals in life I sought out to accomplish.
I now find myself in a quandary. I am starting a second novel, but I don’t feel the same pressure complete it, so some days and weeks, I simply “float.”
“Floating” is a fun activity, but also very dangerous. Some days I can’t recall if I’ve tied my shoelaces. But that’s o.k., for too many decades, I pressured myself to achieve – rising at 5:15 a.m. daily and putting my pen down long after the sun had set. The other day in a line at Walmart, I was talking with a retired couple. I said, “How did we do that work routine for all those years?” The wife responded, “You had to put food on the table and keep a roof over your head. There wasn’t time for those types of questions.”
That was quite true.
We are supposed to go to Egypt next year and I am excited about the prospect of getting back out into the world. It seems there is still much to do, so I have adopted the philosophy of “Just Doing It” rather than having set goals.
At this point in life, I’m o.k. with being “goal-less” and find I can still accomplish things; they just don’t have to be as defined as in the past. After decade upon decade of goal-checking, it’s a bit of a relief just to be. Yes, “being” is just fine by me.
And, with that I end as “Poolside from PS.”