I know – shocking, isn't it?
Well, actually it is shocking. I remember looking ahead to the distant day when I'd reach the grand old age of 30, envisioning all the things I'd have achieved by then. And now I have less than a year left before that milestone arrives. The question is, have I actually done anything I thought I was going to do?
As always, it seems far easier to bring to mind everything that hasn't happened as I intended it to. (People are good at beating themselves up that way.) For example, when I was thirteen or fourteen I fondly imagined that by the time I was in my twenties I would be confident, poised, glamorous and outgoing. I had visions of myself swanning around in discreetly expensive clothes, displaying charm and wit and generally being wonderful. My house would be full of beautiful things and look as though it had sprung straight from the pages of a lifestyle magazine, and I would know how to deal with every social situation I came across without blushing like a radish and stumbling over my words.
Cue undignified snort.
Funny how when we're in our teens, we think becoming an adult will somehow give us a personality transplant. Truth is, I'm still the mildly awkward, scruffy geek I always was – only now I don't mind. I should never have aspired to all that superficial outward polish. I should have aspired to what I actually ended up with: pride in who I am. Maybe if we took the time to examine our longstanding hopes for ourselves and our lives, we'd realise how many of them come from outward expectation and social convention – from what other people think is worth having, rather than what we've chosen for ourselves.
So let's set aside the things I thought I wanted, and cut down to the core: the things I'd still choose if I were to re-evaluate my ambitions today. When I look at that list, it turns out I've achieved more than I thought. I have a master's degree and a job that's genuinely interesting. I have my own house, even if it is a lot more, shall we say, cluttered than the one I envisaged when I was younger. I have a wonderful partner and a baby on the way. I have a lot. Yet there's one thing that still stands out, my first and deepest ambition: the only thing I really want beyond what I already have. And if you know me at all then you probably already know what it is.
I want to be a published author.
That's the killer – the one goal I haven't achieved and the one I've never stopped wanting. I've wanted it ever since I was six and wrote my first book (about a flying rabbit with superpowers). Of course, back then I thought it was going to be easy. As I've been climbing the mountain it's got steeper and steeper, the summit harder to reach, but I've also picked up the tools I need along the way. And I suppose that's the point, isn't it? When I was younger it was easy to set myself these goals, because I didn't have a clear idea of what they would involve. I thought I could reach the mountaintop armed with nothing more than a raincoat and a light snack. Over the years – as I've slipped and fallen, taken detours, and sometimes stopped for months at a time to enjoy the view – I've come to recognise the extent of my former ignorance. But I've also, slowly and steadily, equipped myself with the knowledge and experience I need to finish the climb.
So there it is. I've still got a year to get to the top, and I think I'm ready at last to make the final ascent. Fingers crossed I'll see you up there. In the meantime, we could all do worse than take a moment to be proud of what we are, what we've already done and what we believe we'll achieve in the future.
Due to birthday-related shenanigans, Write Every Day tips will be back next week.