After I finished grad school and started working, I felt a persistent sense of...meh. A strong blah, if you will.
I had no goals.
(This always makes me think of this scene from "Can't Hardly Wait" where the nerdy kid gets drunk and says "I can't feel my legs. I have no legs! I HAAAAAVE NOOOOOO LEEEEEEEEEEGS!" That, in turn, made me occasionally say "I HAAAAAAVE NOOOOO GOOOOAAAAAALS!")
I had spent such a long time working towards completing my Master's and getting a job in DC that once I found myself in possession of both said Master's and job in DC, I...well, I had nothing to work towards. It felt really, really weird.
Over three years later, though, I've definitely got myself some goals. I now have what often feels like an aircraft carrier's worth of goals, to be more precise:
1) Get back to my "happy weight" -- the weight at which I feel my best, can run without hurting my knees or feet, and look good without compromising my athletic body type:
STATUS: Sooooooo close! I've lost a lot of the extra weight I put on during grad school and my first few years back in the working world, and I'm within spitting distance of my goal. Happily, I've officially reached the stage where I had to buy new pants -- and I'm down a full size. (*Does happy dance*) Progress!
2) Pay off my credit card:
STATUS: As of today...achieved! It took a while, but who has two thumbs and no credit card debt? This girl!
3) Start running competitively again:
STATUS: It's a work in progress, but I'm definitely on my way! I've had osteoarthritis in my feet since I was 21 -- most likely caused by decades of undiagnosed Celiac disease -- and I haven't run a 5K since just before the arthritis was diagnosed. I know that in the world of competetive running, a 5K is like a leisurely afternoon stroll. I've never been (nor will I ever be) a marathoner, and I'm cool with that. I run because I love it, not because I'm hardcore -- so those 5Ks are just the right distance for me.
I've largely forgone running for 10 years, but I miss it something fierce. Now that I'm outfitted with an awesome set of running shoes and am dropping the extra weight (which has greatly reduced the pressure on my joints), I'm up and running again. (*Does another happy dance*) My goal is to start running 5Ks again this fall -- for now, I'm working on getting my mile times down and my endurance back up to where it once was. Progress!
4) The big one: start my own business as a health coach and cooking instructor:
STATUS: It's intimidating as all get-out, but progress is being made. I know what I want to do and how I want to do it, so now I need to focus on things like paperwork and marketing. Those are no small tasks, so it's going to take a lot of determination and persistence to do this right. (*Crosses fingers*)
I find that pursuing long-term goals can be a daunting prospect, especially when in the beginning stages. When I start working towards a long-term goal, I always feel like I'm at the base of a mountain, looking up at the summit and wondering how the hell I'm going to get up there. The beginning is always the hardest: you know there's a lot of hard work ahead, and you haven't started seeing any of the benefits or pay-off -- so it's hard to stay motivated.
At moments like that, I have to work extra hard to keep myself focused and on task. When I first set out to lose weight, I nearly gave up after 8 days. When I first climbed on the treadmill again after a years-long hiatus from running, I could only run one mile at a dreadfully slow pace. When I first started setting aside a larger percentage of my paycheck in order to pay off my credit card sooner rather than later, it felt like it was going to take forever to get to where I wanted to be.
Whenever I feel like the goal I've set for myself is intimidating -- that it's going to be too hard, take too long, or that it might not be achievable at all -- I look at this picture:
That's me and my dear friend Jes at the summit of Mt. Bierstadt, a 14,000 foot peak in our beloved Colorado. We climbed it in June 2007, and it was a tough hike. I remember standing at the base of that mountain, looking up at the summit, and thinking "Sweet Jesus, what am I doing? How the hell am I going to get up there?" It took a lot of trail mix and some blisters, but we made it -- and we had an awesome time.
|The view from the base|
I keep that picture framed as a reminder that I really can achieve things that, at the outset, are incredibly intimidating. Much like Mt. Bierstadt, a lot of my big goals seem imposing and more than a little bit scary (please see Goal #4 above). But, much like climbing to the top of a Fourteener, progress is made one step at a time -- and it's always worth it. When a task feels too big, I remind myself to just keep going one step at a time. I know I'll get there eventually.
|The view from the summit|