Totally Attainable Dreams: The List

2 Feb

It seems pretty stupid to to begin worrying, a few months before your twenty-second birthday, that you might be getting Old.

I admit that this is a problem I’ve had for a while – I really didn’t want to turn twenty, for example, because for some reason the nebulous wall of teenagerdom was something I could hide behind in order to avoid thinking about entering My Twenties, the decade of Getting Off Your Arse and Making Something Of Yourself, Goddammit. I rationalised my eighteenth and nineteenth years – mostly spent drinking, joining and qutting and rejoining university courses, and lying to my parents about looking for work – by simply thinking “Hey, this is what teenagers do. They tit around and enjoy themselves and disregard anything that seems like hard graft, because they can. What do they have to worry about, after all? They’re young”.

Now, having moved out of my parents’ house to follow a course I’m actually going to complete, I’m beginning to realise that I may have wasted a little bit too much time back then. Sure, twenty-two isn’t old (unless you’re talking to teenagers, who’ll tell you with a sad grin that the coffin is already being carved) but I really did spend the latter years of my teenage life doing pretty much nothing. Other people were taking driving lessons and perfecting their musical skills and winning acclaim for their athletic ability/artistic vision/knack for making tiny plastic replicas of sweets and selling them off as quirky jewelry, while I was sitting in my room, cultivating various pointless addictions and attempting to learn to write (something I quite clearly haven’t achieved yet).

That fact hit me at five o’clock this morning as I stared at the ceiling, waiting fruitlessly for sleep to arrive. (This little problem isn’t what’s causing my insomnia, by the way: lack of sleep is a bitch, but it does allow you a lot of time to examine the immediate surroundings of your bed while internally berating yourself for being pretty much useless.) Fortunately, pretentious liberal help was at hand in the form of NPR’s This American Life podcast, which I had started downloading about a year before in the middle of my Grab Every Podcast Available Online phase, one of my many fun but time-wasting pursuits. The show, dated 16.08.2010, had a story about a woman who, as a child, had dreamed of becoming a superhero, and decided at an early age to write a list of all the skills she’d need to become an ass-kicking, stunt-driving, crime-fighting Amazon. By the time she was twenty-one, she’d mastered a double-handful of impressive skills, including firearms training, evasive driving, wilderness survival, knife-throwing, hostage negotiation, several martial arts, and how to fly a helicopter without killing yourself and others in the process. (That’s just the stuff I can remember off the top of my head; there are at least ten more.) In between being a badass and pre-emptively crushing my dreams, she’d completed high school, a Bachelor’s degree in Geopolitics, and a Master’s in same, and was looking around for PHD courses. I’ll just remind you: she’s TWENTY-ONE at this stage. She eventually becomes an agent for a top international private detective agency, and one assumes she now spends most of her time flitting around the world wearing catsuits and kicking Colombian druglords in the knackers.

Naturally, on hearing about such a triumphant collection of achievements, I started comparing my own list of talents. They came to:

  • Reads quite fast
  • Can cook own meals
  • Can drink slightly above weight class
  • Small carbon footprint (can’t drive)
  • Friend to the animals
  • Doesn’t make much noise

Clearly, changes had to be made. Unfortunately, I spent my childhood being a child, so I don’t have the kind of time that Zhora (that’s the woman’s name; yes, like the dancing assassin from Blade Runner) had to complete a list of tasks. On the plus side, my list is a touch less ambitious then hers. I gave myself a time-limit, just to make things more interesting (by which I mean, interesting at all). From the handy Notes archive on my phone:

Things To Do Before January 1st, 2012

1. Get into the habit of writing regularly, once a week at the bare minimum.

This is the one I think I’ll have the most trouble with, because of my (probably quite obvious by this point) lack of motivation. People who want to pursue a career in writing are told, time and time again, that the only way to make yourself into a writer is to WRITE, as often as you can, and it doesn’t matter if what you write is utter shit, because writing isn’t really a natural talent: it has to be honed through intense practice. I’m going to try to write something, long or short, fictional or not, every day. If I think it’s at all funny or entertaining, you might even see it here in these hallowed (dusty) pages.

2. Learn a language to a basic level of competence (Italian, maybe, or Spanish)

This one might seem like the hardest on the list, but I was always quite good at learning languages. I’ve got a good memory for vocab, and I don’t find pronunciation as much of a problem as some people do. I already know a tiny bit of Spanish and, let’s face it, Italian and Spanish are the same language, so hopefully I’ll be able to get pretty far with this one. (Allow me a little bit of arrogance, alright? It’s been a tough day. Excuse me while I dab the sweat from my brow with an exquisite lace kerchief.)

3. Take up some form of offensive pursuit (boxing/aikido/karate – join a society?)

I want to learn some form of fighting skill for two reasons – one, it’ll keep me fit on a regular basis, and two – well, it’ll be fucking cool. There’s no arguing with it. Ha-cha, etc.

4. Take driving lessons.

Come on. A blind monkey with one leg can probably do this. He might not get very far, but the point stands.

5. Learn to play an instrument to a basic level, and don’t immediately be disheartened when it turns out it’s hard.

I’ve tried to learn various instruments over the years – guitar, keyboard, uh, tuba – and I’ve always gotten bored with them almost instantly. I know that everyone’s crap when they first start out and that making a godawful tuneless racket is par for the course in the first month or so, but it always frustrated me that I couldn’t even pluck out a simple tune when other people make it look so effortless. Hopefully I’ll be able to restrain my raging ego and stick at it until I can tap out a rousing rendition of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” on some kind of washboard.

Readers (all fourteen of you): Do me a favour and interrogate me through comments at various points in the year about how these goals are going. I’d hate to look through the archives in a couple of years and discover this sad little post that I’d evidently forgotten all about within a week. Sound fair? Good. I’ll see you in a few days.

(Unless I forget.)

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3 Responses to “Totally Attainable Dreams: The List”

  1. Abner February 8, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    I enjoyed reading this. You are awesome.

  2. Laura February 9, 2011 at 10:44 am #

    I second the above comment. /suck up.

  3. cathmor0 May 31, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    is it too late to like this? whatevs. I’m doing it anyway.

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