Last year I started journaling a bit more seriously than I had before. Up until January 2019, I’d only journaled specific trips.
Most of the time I wrote about what I was doing but between these logs I would sometimes write more personally about how I was feeling. Nowadays, my journals are mostly self-reflective but they generally capture the short-term.
I look back at my journals from a few years ago and think, “little does he know…” and I feel quite lucky to have them as a reminder that things weren’t so peachy before. It’s easy to look back with rose-tinted glasses and think the grass used to be greener.
It reminds me that whatever the colour of grass, I’ve got a lot to be grateful for, and I’m actually pretty damn lucky.
A few months ago, Mum asked me to think about my life a bit more - to try to make a life plan. Having just turned 25, and recently becoming single, I felt a bit lost. A few months before I was starting to feel like I was being “pulled” in some direction only to realise that the direction wasn’t the right one or with the right person. I realised that I couldn’t rely on someone else to define me.
I doubled down on myself. I started doing yoga, going bouldering indoors, running more, blogging, coding, working, socialising and all of it helped and I began to feel more myself, more present. Travelling and dating were two things I shied away from until a bit later, but I got over the self-doubt and started opening up again.
In May I started a journal dedicated to “me in 2019”. It still makes me quite emotional just to read it, and I think it will for a long time.
I feel like designing 100 things, building 50, finding someone to be with, staying single, staying in my lovely flat, finding a new one, writing songs, books, software, drawing, playing guitar. There’s no focus to it.
— my journal, May 5th 2019
Maybe one day I’ll publish the rest, but suffice to say it paints a picture of a perfectly decent quarter-life crisis of a well-off software dev. It also recounts a difficult time moving apartments, a difficult stalled reboot of my dating life, a decision to stop dating, about three failed attempts at planning a trip to Scotland, Amsterdam, Sweden…, an infuriating land lord, “being alone is exactly what I need right now”, a failed attempt at planning a European train journey…, hiking in Vietna-, Norwa-, Swe-…, workplace crushes, “Maybe I would feel better if I booked this stupid holiday” (and as it happens I finally took two weeks in October and went on two much-needed trips).
In August, I finally sat down and had a good think about that life plan.
I listed a few things I could have as my ultimate goals. Some options were optimistic to say the least:
The same things keep coming to mind when I think about what I actually want to do
- start a software company
- write a book
- become a musician
- become a freelance web developer
— ‘me’ plan, August 14th 2019
I noted that my current trajectory precludes all of these, one way or another.
I wrote a few ideas that I was mulling over at the time but noted that whatever it was, I would have to want to do it 24-7. Amongst all of the other things in one’s life, a purpose gives the whole experience meaning.
Looking back, I’ve often restricted myself to consider only “grand” purposes - changing the world or at least trying to. But a purpose needn’t be grand, rather it should be meaningful.
In my initial search for a life goal, I considered my own way of coming up with one - splitting my life into categories and creating a goal to balance them out.
A few days later I came back to my plan and broke my well-being into separate categories that matter to me: sleep, health, exercise, love, work, music and language. These aren’t in any particular order and they don’t exhaustively cover everything, but they go quite far.
I gave each category a rating to indicate how well I was attending to them:
work ———————————|———————— exercise —————– | sleep ———————— | health ————— | language —— | music ———— | love — |
In summary, I felt like an over-worked, moderately fit, not-so-exhausted, not unwell, unloved failed amateur polyglot with a mild obsession for anything musical.
By the way, I don’t want this to be a sob-story - the above might not even be accurate, but I did feel like scrawling it down a few months ago, and maybe it means something (to me at least). I’m highly aware that I’ve got many things to be glad for in my life, but it’s time to ask what matters to me the most and how can I point my life in that direction.
Ideally each of the categories are balanced in way that maximises my own sense of purpose. Creating a single goal to do this didn’t seem realistic at the time and life got busy for me so I didn’t come back to the plan for a while. And here I am!
Anyway, step one in my “me mission” will be writing a personal mission statement … * cue eye-rolling *
No really, I’m going to try to write a personal mission statement and probably spur my quarter-life crisis into overdrive in the process… Or maybe figure this whole thing out, who knows?