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Goals Change

And that’s okay. Sometimes it’s necessary to adapt and change course along the way, and it’s not because we’re quitters or because we can’t achieve the goals we said, once, we wanted to achieve. Sometimes, when we’re closer to success, we realize that that thing off in the distance isn’t what we needed or wanted, after all.

When I was in 5th grade, my passion for writing was ignited by a teacher whose red pen bled all over the page – equal parts enthusiasm, encouragement, and ruthless critique. It was highly addictive, heady stuff – knowing that an authority on good writing thought I had what it took to be a writer. And yet…

Would you believe that writing wasn’t my first love? Oh, no – I was torn between Volcanology and Archaeology (specifically, Egyptology) and writing was just something I did. My dad tried to convince me that Computer Science was going to be very important, one day, and suggested I seriously consider that. “Dad,” I told him, rolling my eyes like the teenager I was, “computers are boring. Just a lot of 1’s and 0’s and accounting programs and such. That’s your thing – not mine.”

I thought I wanted to harness the awesome, raw power of nature – to harness the energy in volcanoes – and turn it to good use, producing electricity. Then, too, at age nine I stood at the caldera of a small volcano in Hawaii, on a cold and misty day, one foot poised on the wooden step (there were about three steps) that would take me to a small viewing platform where I could see the roiling, molten rock the spewed and splattered up from the earth’s core – and the wind shifted directions. As we were being told to quickly turn back and head for the busses, I noticed a park ranger – someone had introduced him as a volcanologist, but I’m pretty sure now he was just a park ranger – standing there putting on a gas mask. Not leaving. I wanted a piece of that.

Nine years old. I didn’t know the words, “control freak” at the time. I didn’t recognize the spark of petulant rebellion when I argued with my dad – throughout most of what must’ve seemed, to him, an interminable two mile hike across cracked, ropy pahoehoe lava hissing and rumbling underfoot – about the fact that sulfur dioxide and the moisture in my lungs made H2SO3 and not H2SO4. I’d never studied Chemistry, but by God, I could count the O’s. That sheer stubbornness might have been the catalyst for my interest in Geology (specifically, Volcanology) didn’t even occur to me until, reading the biographies of famous volcanologists, it struck me just how little interest I had in Petroleum Engineering. It was possible, I quietly admitted to myself, that I was nursing a grudge over being told that I could not climb onto that platform, as promised, to see lava with my own eyes.

Gradually, I recognized weird preferences, too. I liked pahoehoe – but aa just looked, well, ugly. I found Kilauea exhilarating, but Mount St. Helens would’ve scared me so bad I’d have peed my pants. I love lava flows that look like New York City from outer space at night or fireworks made out of rock; however, Nuées Ardentes just terrify me – you can’t run fast enough from an evil, poisonous, incinerator of a gas cloud as it rolls angrily down the mountainside. Now that I’m a mother, I can say this out loud: I’m chicken. I used to pray to see tornadoes, too. Didn’t exactly want to be a meteorologist or a storm chaser, but would not have said no if invited to ride along. And I lived in Tornado Alley. Watching cloud rotation overhead with your three year old child can make you think twice about your daredevil ways. Now? I have the movie Twister on DVD, and pop it into the player when I need my flying cows fix.

My grandmother took me to Egypt to celebrate my graduation from the university. Instead of deepening my desire to pursue archaeology, it satisfied it – climbing up into the Great Pyramid in 115 F heat, only to see a great stone room with a stone box in it, and to realize that most of the great discoveries had probably been discovered and could be seen for the price of admission to the museum in Cairo  – okay, the fact that that thought even crossed my mind just screams, “Not destined to be an Archaeologist of any sort!” doesn’t it?

It wasn’t until I watched a PBS documentary series on volcanoes and volcanologists that the real basis for all this began to rear its head – and it was a bit too late, I thought then, to do anything much about it: I saw the volcanologist, Haroun Tazieff, wearing asbestos and listening to classical music as he strolled around the crater of Nyiragongo.

Tazieff seemed to understand the thing I couldn’t put words to, even then – this melding of beauty, awesome power, breathtaking joy, and heartstopping terror. That a man could listen to Mozart and walk the edge of the caldera, flirting with the dragon…

I watched, mesmerized.

And realized, in that moment, that being behind the lens of the camera was where I saw myself, and where I most wanted to be.

You can imagine how riveted I was by these photos of the volcanic eruptions in Iceland, taken by Chris Lund. In that instant, Iceland made my short list of “places to retire,” and I wrote to Chris begging for a low-res digital image I could use as my PC background, so I could look at my favorite every day. (Yes, I gushed like a 15 year old fan girl over a rock star. What of it? Tell me #1384 doesn’t just take your breath away.)


Volcanic Eruptions 2010 – Images by Christopher Lund

Even after I landed a job that involved writing, I fought it – I went to Law School. “You like to argue,” people would say. “Have you ever thought of becoming a lawyer?” Apparently, I don’t like to argue as much as they thought I did. I should’ve argued myself right out of that one, but I didn’t.

I have finally settled, rather comfortably, into writing. It comes as naturally to me as breathing. It is work; it is play. It’s what I do. It’s what I’ve done since I was ten, and it only took me another fifteen to realize that it was a gift, this ability to share – with you – the things that were bouncing around inside my head.

It’s not who I am – certainly, it’s not the sum total of who I am. But being a writer lets me explore a wide variety of interests (if anyone questions it, I can call it “research”) and indulge my curiosity until it is satisfied or driven to know more. I have no regrets about the road not taken.

 

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

Have your goals changed, over time? Or have you stayed the course and pursued them with unwavering determination? Please – share your story here. And if you like this post, please share it with others – just click the buttons below!

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About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at http://jahangiri.us/new.

About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at http://jahangiri.us/new.

Comments

  1. As a response to prefvious commenter I would say: the goals stay the same in their essence, but they take new forms. The essence of all goals is to expand more and more, that´s the divine part of human nature.
    Laur recently posted..Free Squeeze Page TemplatesMy Profile

  2. Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken is one of my favorite poems since it has always served for me a reminder that sometimes, you need to be willing to be daring and unconventional in order to reach your goals.

    That said, I can say that I have stayed pretty much on course with my goals. What has changed are the ways that I’ve been doing to achieve them. There are times that I thought that was the best option, only to find that it’s not. So I decide to let go and try something else. Many times, it meant having to take extra risk and doing things the unconventional way. But just like Robert Frost said: that has made all the difference.

    Thanks so much for such an inspiring post, and good luck with the competition.
    Adeline recently posted..Philippines’ Most Promising Students Compete 2nd Grand Culinary ChallengeMy Profile

    • I think we always have to be open to changing the way we achieve our goals – if something’s not working, try something else. Einstein’s definition of insanity pops into mind: doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

      Thanks, Adeline! Love your site!
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Courage to ContinueMy Profile

  3. Holly, this is an excellent share. Its always interesting to know that there is so much about people than we know. Not sure how complete you consider your life to be, being a writer and all. But rest assured, people (at least I) appreciate your words!

    And my goals change, perhaps too often (the word capricious springs to mind), but I like that, keeps me keen on all aspects of life!
    Neeraj Sachdeva recently posted..Should You Rent an Office Space?My Profile

    • Why on earth would I not consider my life to be complete because I’m “a writer and all,” Neeraj? I’m not sure I understand that statement, and I’m quite curious about it, but I’m glad you appreciate my words – that’s always nice to hear.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Self ConfidenceMy Profile

  4. Asdis Omarsdottir says:

    From the age of 11 it was my goal to meet Duran Duran. That goal was met when I was 32 years old. Which only taught me that you should never give up on a goal if it’s really something you *crave*. I’ve had a hard time coming up with a new goal in the 6 years that have passed since. Overall happiness and fulfillment? I’m not sure if that’s realistic.

    • The U.S. founding fathers were smart; they recognized the right to PURSUE happiness, not to attain it. But as you demonstrate, a goal worth attaining sometimes takes time and patience, as much as it does hard work – but if you lose sight of it, you’ll miss opportunities. And I think that’s okay, because if you’ve really lost sight of it, it’s not really a goal anymore. Spend 32 years doing nothing BUT trying to meet Duran Duran, and people think you’re a crazy lady. ;) Spend 32 years with that goal always there – but behind the other goals of getting a degree, being a good mom, etc. and it happens – maybe when you least expect it, but you’re there and you’re open to it and you notice, so it happens. I think “overall” happiness and fulfillment – or at least a sense of contentment – are realistic. But they’re a byproduct of having other goals – the right goals for us – and achieving them. If you can look back, in old age, and say “It’s been a good run, I have no big regrets…” I think you can say that “overall” you’re happy. Happiness as a constant state of being is a choice – maybe unrealistic for some of us, but I actually think it MIGHT be doable.

  5. You know, I can’t really remember all the goals I wanted growing up, but I do remember as a teen writing stories and poems, being fascinated by computer games,and wanting to do them. Nowdays, I find myself enjoying writing stories (could still do poems, but haven’t written one in a while… might have to remedy that…) and being fascinated by and learning how to do 3d graphics used in computer games and in movies. I guess not much has changed except that I’m older and now finding things I wish I’d learned 20 years ago. Or at least had access to.

    My grandmother used to tell me stories of me “preaching”… and the funny thing is now, I sometimes think it might be fun to be a motivational writer/speaker. Funny how life brings us full circle in some ways, isn’t it? :D

    Thanks for the food for thought!
    Grady Pruitt recently posted..I’ve Reached My Goal… Now What?My Profile

    • Thanks for stopping by to dine on it, Grady!

      It’s funny how some of the things we feel “driven” to do turn out to be “wouldn’t that be fun?” ideas more than real goals; and how sometimes, the real goals lay quietly in our brains, ripening, waiting until the perfect moment – when we’re ready to see them for what they are. They were always there in some form – waiting for us to make the connections. One thing I forgot to mention in this post – I always told my dad I thought computers were “boring,” until one day, I got suckered into playing an online RPG. And then into developing areas of the game, and quests, and learning just enough programming to implement those designs. That first writing job was as a technical writer. Gradually, the two came together – and eventually, I was writing technical manuals for computer hardware and software. But still – the little people in my head demanded not only to be fed and housed and clothed, they wanted voices. I couldn’t just set aside the fiction and poetry, the fantasy and “fun” writing. And I’m fortunate enough to be able to do both. :) Today, my dad loves to say, “Who was it that said ‘computers are boring?’” Yeah, parents always have the last laugh, if they live long enough. :) Oh – he also used to urge me to go into trademark and patent law. It wasn’t until long after I’d decided not to practice law that I realized I actually did feel pretty passionate about intellectual property law.

  6. My goals have wandered a bit, but they somehow connected to writing and living. Yes, they do go together. I’ve written since I was in the third grade or before (the first sample was from third grade), and no matter what else I did or where my life’s path wove, I wrote. When I taught students how to write, I wrote. Now, I write as I provide the opportunity for other writers to have their works published, I write.
    Vivian Zabel recently posted..When discouragement arrivesMy Profile

  7. Its funny, how when you are in the flow you crate magic and wonder. often as children we know what are dreams and desires are, yet school, parents, life, knocks away our confidence and self belief, so its great you have rediscovered and claimed your childhood passion for writing.

  8. The more goals change, the more they stay the same! (or something like that…)
    Larry Lourcey recently posted..Are You Buff Enough?My Profile

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  1. [...] what I wrote enough to re-tweet it, but at the very least I hoped he’d like it. And when I wrote Goals Change, I was actually thinking of something Dave M. had suggested weeks earlier – but rather than use [...]

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