A few weeks ago I was doing a bit of number crunching and thinking about my big goal of being debt free before I turn 30. I’m still on track and I can’t deny that I get a bit of a rush every time I see myself inching closer and closer to the light at the end of the tunnel.
On this particular occasion though, something happened. I’m not sure what brought it on but I found myself wondering about what I was going to do once I finally reach my goal. Slowly it dawned on me that I didn’t really know the answer. I suddenly realized that I’ve been spending so much time focused on reaching “debt zero” that I haven’t really thought about what I want to do after.
In a way, admitting this is kind of embarrassing. There’s really no “one thing” that jumps out at me; no specific area of my life that I’d like to shift my energies to next. Growing up, I always felt envious of the people who seemed to have an objective in life – something that gives them direction and a sense of purpose. Sure, I’m passionate about a lot of things, but no niche or whatever has ever been my one thing, y’know?
Which would be why this blog is always all over the place. (Mystery solved! G’night everybody!)
There was a time that I honestly thought that my lack of direction meant that there was something wrong with me. When I was a kid, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up there’s a good chance that I gave you some half-hearted and pre-rehearsed response because I had already figured out that “I don’t wanna grow up!” wasn’t the answer people were looking for. As I got older I started to realize that the good school + good job + marriage + house + babies formula didn’t necessarily add up to personal fulfillment for everyone the way that most of us were brought up to believe.
In reality, the only things I’ve ever known that I wanted out of life were to be happy, independent and successful (by my own terms), all while spending my time surrounded by people I care about.
And so, there I sat, the swell of panic rising steadily as I tried to imagine life after my loan. I had always thought that achieving your goals and attaining that kind of personal freedom was supposed to be exciting! Why did I still not know what I wanted to do with my life?? WAS EVERYTHING I EVER BELIEVED ACTUALLY A LIE??
Once I was done freaking out and having a mini existential crisis I sat down and decided to, y’know, do something about the problem.
A novel idea, I know.
Thus my “future scrapbook” was born (proper title pending because “future scrapbook” is pretty underwhelming. Life Book? Yeah, let’s go with that.)
The idea here is pretty simple: I’m building a scrapbook of all of the things I want to do with my life. I started by writing lists of things I want to achieve, experiences I want to have and places I want to go. I chose to cover only things that I alone have control over making happen so as not to limit my ability to achieve everything I dream up. The kinds of things that requires the specific participation of someone else (for example getting married or, to a lesser extent, having kids) aren’t included.
The rest of the book (in a binder for the sake of easy editing) is separated into tabs for each list. Within the tabs are pages that I’m filling with inspiring images, information I need in order to make my goals happen, doodles, tallies and anything else I can think of.
The Life Book is a living project, which means it’ll never really be finished. Whenever I get a new idea or just feel that familiar sense of panic about the future creeping up, I just sit down and work on the pages a bit more. Everything about it is hands-on too, which helps to satisfy my creative urges.
I’ve often said that my obsession with paying off my student loan comes from a place of feeling as though the burden of its weight has forced me to put my life on hold. Realistically, it’s not like I can’t start doing the things I want to do but I’m also the type of person that would rather not have that kind of debt hanging over my head while I’m out there doing cool things. Having to wait sucks, but at least with the Life Book I can spend the next couple of years getting my ducks in a row.
Now, for the first time in a while, thinking about the future doesn’t give me heart palpitations. I’m pretty pumped about what comes after my current big goal and the most challenging thing I have to worry about now is what do to first. Bring on the next two years!
What about you? What big goals or plans are you working toward? Have you thought about what you want to do after? Do you have your own creative way of planning for the future? Tell me about it in the comments!