In late October, I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Broke”. It details the oft-repeated parable of young professional athletes coming into giant sums of money in the early part of their careers and the subsequent inability to cope with or plan for the time when it ends. Herm Edwards, one of the great football personalities of all time, is a presence throughout the film. At one point, he’s giving a talk to some college-age guys and is driving at the importance of having a plan in place for the other half of their lives. He stresses specificity and structure, quipping, “A goal without a plan is a wish.”
I felt like he was talking to me. I’ve had a plan and numerous failsafes for as long as I can remember. I’m pretty good at mobilizing and strategizing to get along, though readers of this blog know it’s been a bit of tough sledding recently. I wondered if it was so taxing on my spirit because I’m going for numerous small goals and missing the big picture. I am definitely guilty of having too many irons in the fire, some of which mean little to me. So I asked myself: What is my goal? What’s the plan to get there? Seeking inspiration from friends and colleagues, I took to Twitter with the following challenge: “In one word, what do you want?” Over the next few days, responses filtered into my inbox, social media stream, and cell phone. I searched for my own one-word response and decided to plan from there accordingly. My answer surprised me, but not really.
The most important thing to me is a sense of home. All-encompassing, setting the context for the rest of the smaller plans and diversions. Home is a physical space and a personal interaction. A base of support and comfort. Home is streets that not only take you places, but guide you there with landmarks: a car that never leaves the driveway, the neon hammer in the hardware store window, a building you have only been to the seventh floor of. Home is habit and the reassurance of shared ritual and routine. Home does not need to justify itself to outsiders.
I know it’s not the prescribed or sexy, gritty goal of a dedicated artist, this home stuff. My answer really should be success or relevance, maybe respect. Hell, maybe it should be cello or music. But I know from experience that I am whole as a person when I feel at home, and it’s something that I haven’t had in I can’t remember how long. Everything in my life feels temporary. As an occasionally logical gal, I know that just about everything is. Time assures us of that. But I also feel deprived of fixtures- people and places- about which to revolve. Pop psychology tells us that these attachments are a liability, that you should always be able to go it alone and brim with the satisfaction of knowing you don’t need anyone or anything except yourself. I suppose this paradigm reflects the times. I suppose I am an outlier, an aberration.
The real difficulty is that home depends on other people. You can’t just power through and force it to happen. I think many of my mid-level goals (writing the next text, improving as a cellist and clinician, learning to fly) are busywork for my soul, designed to be fulfilling and distract from the giant internal billboard that reads Got Home?
No, I do not. And Coach Edwards, I’m not sure how to systematically plan for it, either. But I know I want it, and we all have to start somewhere.
Some highlights from the Twitter responses to “In one word: what do you want?”:
@aphexplotz: boobies (of course you did)
Photo from here.
Thought of this one for you. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-q4foLKDlcE
I lived that album as an undergrad! California isn’t home any more, but the song feels a little like it.
Great post. I came to a similar conclusion not long ago. It was hugely liberating; rather than dreaming of all sorts of contradictory goals and reacting to the minor opportunities, I accepted that finding and securing home (as far as is possible in this transient life). I may not be there yet, but at least I know which direction to walk.
Best of luck in your search!