Last week I was looking through some composition books that I use for jotting down writing exercises, journal entries, story ideas and other scraps of information. In leafing through the pages I found an entry dated August 3, 2012. It’s about an encounter I had over the summer, but I will present it here as a brief essay because I think the story has some relevance as we get ready to catalog another calendar year.
A woman was sitting with her legs crossed on a wooden bench in a wide hallway near the entrance to a lecture hall in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications on the campus of Syracuse University.
Her back was to me as I came down the stairs from my office on the second floor of Newhouse One. I turned in her direction and walked toward the men’s room at the other end of the hallway.
I noticed she was in her early twenties and I surmised she was a graduate student. She had long straight brown hair, was wearing a gray sweater and had a cell phone cupped to her ear.
As I strode past her I overheard her say, “I love it. I really do. But I have all these other goals that need to be nurtured. They really need to be nurtured.”
I wondered who was on the other end of the phone. I also wanted to know what goals she was talking about.
Were they career goals, family goals, personal goals, artistic goals, romantic goals, financial goals? What did this young woman want from her life and what was standing in her way? Lack of time, lack of money, lack of opportunity, lack of patience, lack of support? Or was she on the cusp of seeing her ambitions realized?
But I also thought, can goals really be nurtured? Can we massage them and bend them to our will?
And what’s the difference between goals and dreams? Goals and hopes? I guess a goal implies making a plan, setting forth on a path toward a destination, toward accomplishing something tangible. There’s more effort involved than just making a wish and hoping for the best.
In reading my notes, I wanted to relive the incident; instead of going down the hallway to the bathroom, I would have liked to stop and talk to the woman and try to get some answers to my questions.
And since this is just a notebook exercise, I took the liberty of transcribing a fictitious conversation with her.
“What do you mean by nurturing goals?” I asked the woman.
“What are you talking about when you say you have all these goals that need to be nurtured?”
“Were you listening to me?”
“Yes. I couldn’t help it. I was walking to the men’s room.”
“It’s none of your business.”
“OK, I understand. And I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m interested.”
“Because I’m curious to know if people can really nurture goals. And since you mentioned it, I’d like to know what goals you’re talking about.”
“I already told you, that’s none of your business. Now leave me alone, please.”
“All right. But I had to ask. The curiosity was killing me.”
Even in a fictional world the woman revealed nothing to me, so her story must remain a mystery.
I don’t know if she will make good on her plans for success. I don’t know if she will go beyond nurturing her goals to seeing them come to fruition.
But I will make a wish as we usher in 2013. I wish her good luck on her journey of self-discovery and I hope all of her goals will be fulfilled in the new year.
I also wonder if the woman was a plant by God, an angel placed there to make me listen to the ticking clock, to awaken me from the routine of that summer workday and remind me that time is elapsing. And if I want to do anything with my life I can’t wait for tomorrow.
So the incident makes me reflect on my own life goals. I ask myself, am I doing all I can to nurture them? Am I expending the effort necessary to achieve them? I guess I have a way to go in that department.
But I will take my cue from the woman sitting on a bench and talking on a cell phone. In 2013 I will do my best to nurture my personal and professional goals. I hope you will do the same, and I wish you the best of luck as you go at it.