Having a birthday in January means that the new year coincides with my own personal new year, which I love to celebrate by setting intentions. I prefer the word intentions to resolutions because they seem lighter and freer. A resolution is about committing to some new rule with the aim of improving yourself and I think the reason resolutions are so hard to maintain is that making rules sets us up to rebel against them. An intention doesn’t weigh you down. It has more to do with hope, and dreaming up possibilities.
I have always trusted my ability to bring what I want into my life. Even as a child I believed not just in making wishes, but in my own power to make them come true. When I was waiting to hear from grad schools, afraid I wouldn’t get in where I wanted to go, I started telling my friends that I was going to CalArts even though I hadn’t received an acceptance letter. I was determined to get in. I was willing to risk embarrassment in order to shoot for what I wanted, thinking that if I believed in the possibility enough, I could force it to come true. That was a long time ago and I know it doesn’t really work that way. But I’m still proud of that willingness to risk going after something I wanted without worrying that I might be disappointed.
Yesterday I turned fifty. It’s a big birthday and the celebrations began a couple of weeks ago and will continue a little longer, which is great and appropriate for such a grand number. But there is an internal shifting going on that has nothing to do with celebrating and feels more like recalibrating. I feel as though my expectations of life and the future are readjusting themselves. In a way it feels as though I am downshifting my goals. In another it seems I am growing out of illusions.
I suppose to a ninety year old fifty seems young, but fifty is really not young anymore. Granted, I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been and I have plenty of energy, and I’m just all around happier and more relaxed than I ever was before, so there is a lot to like about growing up. I love this new feeling that I don’t have to prove anything. I still have aspirations, but I no longer feel the same urgency, that there is a race on and I have to keep up. I just want to keep doing what I like and what I’m good at. And it seems, finally, that those things are becoming my life instead of something I am reaching for.
So this year, as I was doing my annual ritual of setting intentions for 2014, more out of habit than anything else, I noticed a new ease about it. I don’t really care about meeting certain goals and I realize that writing them down has little effect on what the outcome will be. It’s like pointing an arrow into the night sky, aiming it at a certain white dot but knowing it’s going to land where it’s going to land. My real goal is just to be as assertive as I can about my career and to watch the future grow. I don’t know exactly what will happen. I just want to keep pushing forward and let myself be surprised.