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Ambitions Revisited

April 23, 2019

Back in 2012 I wrote a post listing my ambitions for the future. Well it's the future now isn't it? Almost. After all, I’m a whole new person now. Anyway it's probably time to take stock. Have I achieved any of them? Have any of my ambitions changed? What's replaced the things that I've decided not to worry about? What has come after the things I managed to do?

First off, here's my justification for writing the list in the original post:

Sometimes, when I am feeling a bit down, I like to write down some of my ambitions. As you can see from this list they are mostly pretty humble but they are also a bit cheesy and embarrassing, so I have put them after the fold!

And this is the original list:

  1. Be wholehearted, cheerful, and sincere
  2. Be creative
  3. Look at the world and see its many faces, hear its many voices
  4. Explore new recipes as often as possible when I cook
  5. Learn to like the taste of tomatoes and cucumbers
  6. Be more at ease around people
  7. Listen to people and hear what they say
  8. Play my part
  9. Look after someone special
  10. Become a parent
  11. Share my values with others, help those who need it
  12. Break up all the negative things inside me
  13. Know what other people want, help them get it
  14. When I wake up each morning I would like to remember my dreams
  15. Understand art more than I do
  16. Lose my fear of creepy crawlies
  17. Learn to drive
  18. Learn to write left handed (why not?)
  19. Visit every country in Europe
  20. Visit the radio telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii
  21. Let go of unnecessary things
  22. Ditch social networks and the rest of the internet as much as possible
  23. Learn to appreciate the noise around me
  24. Meditate
  25. Get over my reliance on sugar to improve my mood
  26. Get rid of things I don’t need
  27. Grow the garden
  28. Write people letters
  29. Learn the differences between species of trees
  30. Be flexible and adaptable and positive about the future
  31. Learn how to hang a picture on a wall

So how have I done?

1, 2 and 3. I hope that I am always whole-hearted, cheerful, and sincere. Creativity obviously comes in many forms, but I like to think I continue to explore new ways of doing things. The many many changes in appearance of this blog are a testament to that. I have travelled a lot since 2012, getting most of the way around South America in 2013/14 and visiting Australia in 2018. One of the ambitions that should have been on the original list was to visit Iceland (it’s a subset of number 19 I guess) and I did that too. As for listening to voices, well my work has started to incorporate much more of that since 2012.

4 and 5. I still try and explore new recipes. If you’re working you can’t help needing to quickly bash out a familiar (and/or comforting recipe from time to time). The A-Z of Cooking by Felicity Cloake has been a useful aid, not to mention Ingrid (see number 9!). Despite all this experimentation, I still hate cucumbers and Ingrid’s allergic to tomatoes so there’s been little progress there either!

6 to 8. I do try. I promise.

9 and 10. I think getting married satisfies the first of these. I don’t plan to become a parent though. Ambition number 9 can’t really be completed: being married sets up new challenges and rewards. While on the one hand, married life is a permanent sleepover with your best friend, you also have to figure out how to graciously stake out your own autonomy and/or trade it for something better. I’m not going to update my ambitions but number 9 would definitely become “Look after someone special and try to do it better each day”.

11 to 13. Yeah so these are bit odd. Still working on them, still need to. But the fact that I need to work on this doesn’t bother me quite as much as it once did.

Fourteen. Dear 2012-Matt, I know you’re probably a bit tweaked about the upcoming date of the Mayan apocalypse (Spoiler: it happens but a bit later and we call it Brexit) but this whole dreams thing is something you can’t really control. You usually remember the sexy ones. Be content with that and try to chill about it a bit. Lots of love, 2019-Matt.

Fifteen. I’m getting there. Note to self: must write more posts about art because it’s more important than ever.

16, 17 and 18. You know how you have all these things that you’d love to do but you just don’t get the time? Well these come under that heading. I made a start with 16 in Peru but that picture of a tarantula on my face freaks some people out so I won’t post it here. As for driving, must I stop walking everywhere? As for learning to write left-handed, there are some people who (quite rightly) suggest that I might want to turn my attention to finishing off learning how to write right-handed.

19 and 20. Working on it. Nearly got to a similar telescope in Chile but it didn’t quite work out.

21 to 24. Another bundle of neuroses. I have disengaged from social networks somewhat and intend to go further. I haven’t taken up meditation at all because the inside of my head is way too noisy. What I did do (at Ingrid’s suggestion) is take up Pilates: I swear by it now. It’s not quite the same as meditation but I’ve found the improvements to my core strength to be quite useful for my mental health.

Twenty five. Again, working on it.

Twenty six. Dear 2012-Matt. It’s me, 2019-Matt, again. Isn’t this just the same as number 21? OK, one’s figurative and one’s literal. I get it. Well don’t worry mate, you are going to move house several times (spoiler alert) and every time you do you are going to realise you have failed this one repeatedly. Never mind!

27 and 28. Well, Ingrid looks after the garden. I do the bins. As for writing people letters, I have enough trouble with this blog. Give me a break people!

29 to 31. Reading The Overstory has helped a bit with identifying the trees (number 29), but I must try harder. I am getting better at number 30 all the time. I hope. Well I try to hope. And as for number 31, I have masted the art of those sticky velcro tab things for now.

Conclusions

As time passes you tend to favour good memories over bad, and you also feel less pressure to attain life goals. I'm not saying my life goals no longer exist, it's more that I now realise that a set of ideals is something to try to optimise rather than flat out achieve. The process of checking the box is as important as the box getting checked.

I wouldn't write a list today. I've not updated this one. If I never get to Slovenia, I won't mind. If I still gum up at the prospect of public speaking, that's not a failure more a sign that public speaking is important and that's how my body lets me know. The ambitions I have now are internal, iterative and private. And in seven years time, it will still be the case that some are done and dusted, while other still remain on the horizon. Such is the business of being.