Yesterday's Realistic Goals?

Hmmm. Wouldn't life be convenient if we could just plan it out to go exactly how we would like? But, as it has probably been said a thousand times before, "life happens!" and it doesn't go as we would plan. Last night, after writing down my three goals for the next five years, I started to realize what my life would look like if those goals were to be accomplished in the amount of time that I expect. In our society, there seems to be a number that really represents coming of age. It is a number that represents the end of youthfulness and the time when one must really buckle down and be an adult. In youth ministry and cultural discussions it is often brought up that the more predominant United States culture does not have a specific age selected for adulthood or any special ceremony to recognize adulthood as a significant rite of passage. But, after writing my goals last night, reflecting upon them, and thinking about what I've seen in people's lives, I now must disagree with those who say that our culture does not have an age that signifies adulthood. We do, but we do not notice it because it comes far later than we expect. And that is the age of 30.

You hear it all the time, people moaning and groaning about passing the threshold of 30. Party shops recognize it as the first age when "getting old" can be joked about and celebrated. Scientists analyze pregnancy and birth defects in relation to births prior to the age of 30 and post 30. Once someone completes their 20s, he or she no longer has to worry about their youthfulness interfering with co-workers perceptions of their work ability and ethic.

These goals I write, really were goals I had written long ago. They fit with the societal expectation that I grew up with as a child: by the time you turn 30, you should have a good paying job, be married, and have children.

I remember quite well the negative discussions surrounding uncles and aunts as they neared the 30 marker and had not yet found their lifelong mate or made a commitment to that partner. Being a parent while still in one's youth was lifted up as the right way to do things. (Remember, "youth" being defined as under the age of 30).

Yet here I sit, with less than 5 years to go before I pass that magical threshold and leave my young years behind, and I realize that to accomplish these goals, to fulfill this familial mandate, would in fact put at risk some other ideas that I and my boyfriend hold dear. Such as the value of higher education (including a masters degree), respecting each other's career goals, having time in married life that is devoted to building a healthy relationship before adding kids to the mix, and most importantly trusting God's timing in all aspects of life. As I stand in this space, I also reflect upon the happenings in my younger sibling's life and the speed by which she is engaging these same expectations, and realize the role that our different personalities play in the mix. Which then causes me to reconsider from whom I received these social constructs about marriage, children, career goals, and age and realize that perhaps it is not only okay, but it might in fact be best for me to find my own way, continue to pave my own course, and to re-design in my mind and value system, the timeline of life, and what matters.

Thus, I re-evaluate my goals and still recognize that I would like to be married, have had my first child, hold a master's degree in my hand, and have a quality job as I pass by the 3-0 mile marker, and know that it is still possible, but at the same time I must evalute if I really want to adopt the lifestyle that requires those adaptations. Hmmm. Do I want to have children before the age of 30? Do I want to work while I have a newborn in the house? Do I want to be married while I'm in school? Do I really care how long I'm married prior to having kids? What do I consider to be a good paying job that affords my giving generously? Am I comfortable with these goals? And even if I am comfortable with them, are they realistic or even fair? Fair in the sense of who they would affect: my future employer, my future spouse, my future children, my future church? And if they need to be changed, how? Or, are they really goals that should not be set with a time reference, but rather left as incomplete goals, recognizing that life is bigger and God is much greater than the plans of humankind (especially mine)?

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