Goals For a New Decade

I’ve determined that I’m a thinker-drunk. Last night, as I gulped down drinks with close friends in anticipation of the new year and decade, I contemplated my life and the direction it’s taken in the last few years. I’m close to completing my engineering degree, have a full time position waiting for me upon graduation, and will be moving onto the next phase of my life. Things seem pretty good, but they aren’t.

Fulfillment. I believe it’s missing.

I came back to Prince Edward Island for a week during the holidays, and immediately slipped back into the group of friends I went to school with for upwards of 12 years in several cases. These were friendships developed through a near lifetime of classes, competition, hanging out, and numerous other experiences. I put a lot of effort into my personal relationships and was rewarded with a very close group of genuine friends. Short of my parents, I feel like these are the people I can rely on in any emergency.

Back when my life was on Prince Edward Island, I participated in numerous extracurricular activities and derived fulfillment from the caring of others, of friends. I knew that network was worth working for and despite some tough life lessons, those people brought meaning to my life. For the past four years in university, there has been little that I would consider meaningful to that extent.

My parents told me before university that I could have two of three things there: friends, sleep, and a good degree. I scoffed at the thought. I valued friendships so much after my experiences on PEI. I couldn’t imagine not continuing that through university. Now that I’m looking at my last semester at the University of Waterloo, I can conclude that friends and a bit of sleep were dropped from the list. The people I spend the majority of time with in classes simply aren’t the type of people I’ve become accustomed to from my time on PEI. The time and effort needed to strike out to meet more people was spent on work and studies. Despite my dismissal of my parents’ comment, it proved accurate. Perhaps the issue is that I’ve been spoiled by my friends from PEI. I’m not sure you can find that kind of friendship without going through 12 years of common life experiences day in, day out.

For many years, even into my university career, I thought I was going to end up doing something great, something unique. Now with graduation so near and a full time position locked up, I feel like I’m giving up on that and entering the drudgery of the rest of my normal life. This is it? I look to friends in psychology or arts or education and wonder if they won’t be more fulfilled by the paths they’ve chosen. Many still don’t know what they will be doing in 4 or 6 months, but it almost seems like that would be better than plotting out the rest of my life in corporate America. I’ve become so… typical. They’re the ones striking out, ready to do crazy, exciting things. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Microsoft. If I end up taking the offer, I hope I can find meaning in the work I do there. My greatest fear is not that I won’t perform – I am willing to give more than everything I have, as evidenced this last semester – it’s that I will question what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m having these thoughts earlier than most. Chasing promotions and money already seems a bit boring, and, sorry to use the word so many times, meaningless. This past semester, I didn’t have much outside of work to live for, so I lived for work. My friend commented that towards the end of high school, I became much more balanced in my work-life balance, but over the past several years, I’ve slipped back into a work > all mindset. I cannot disagree with his assessment. Back in high school those friends were a big part of my life. I’ve since filled the void with work and study.

My friends hoped I wouldn’t engross myself with work and turn into one of those awkward computer science people. I need to find something that brings me joy and fulfillment in the new decade, outside of my job. This is the decade that will likely shape the rest of my life. I will make difficult decisions in my career and, who knows, perhaps even find that girl that I’ll settle down with.

I’ve always been extremely goal-oriented, so it seems appropriate to set out some measurable ones today. For the 2010’s, my goal is to apply my skills in the computer and business fields to aid NGO’s that I feel strongly about. I will give time in order to be more involved than simply donating financial aid. I will make an effort to meet people through these organizations, and see if I can’t find meaningful relationships outside of Prince Edward Island.

This is the decade I stop emphasizing work over all else and try to find some meaning in my life. Welcome 2010.


7 Replies to “Goals For a New Decade”

  1. I would recommend taking as much time off before you start your career – wherever it will be. Take time to do things that you would never have considered before, since those same things will be the ones you won’t have time to do once you start a career. Travel (if that’s your thing), but try as hard not to do the “normal” tourist things. Obviously every trip and its memories / stories will differ from everyone else’s, but do something crazy. Road trip the longest distances, visit the smallest villages, eat the oddest things, climb the highest object. You get the idea.

    Basically you’re in a great position – you have a guaranteed offer waiting for you after all your hard work, so now it’s time to live the other side of the coin (once you get through the next four months).

    The grass will always be greener on the other side. I still look at friends that have gone off to Asia to teach English with both disdain and jealousy. Could I afford to be so reckless and so daring at the same time to just put life on hold for one or more years? Personally, I can’t, but good on them for doing those kinds of things.

    And I think these lyrics from Baz Luhrmann’s Sunscreen best sums things up:

    Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…
    the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives,
    some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t

  2. I feel I can relate with your post on many levels.. I too feel that the modern corporate ladder is so largely just a huge sham.

    People mindlessly toiling away for their next 3% promotion; crushing each other as they persevere endlessly towards what? More and more work, for less and less life experience? As a song I was listening to earlier today put it, “looking back, living poor (and fulfilled) wasn’t so bad..”

    I don’t feel the song is saying that to live a fulfilled life you must be poor. However, while it feels a bit cliche in our culture of mainstream psychology and lovey-dubby family flicks, the pursuit of material happiness isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. Just my 2 cents.

    Excellent post! Congratulations on the secured position, and (soon) the completion of your degree!!

    – Chase

  3. For what it’s worth from a total stranger, your demonstrated dedication to thinking about the issue as well as maintaining a blog and putting these thoughts out there is a meaning-ful- foundation for working towards fulfillment. Good luck with your goals.

  4. I think you should just take a step back and enjoy life. You only have such little time left before your undergrad college career is over, and I’m sure there are some things that aren’t academic that you’d like to achieve. I agree with the comment above about traveling. It’s a great way to find out who you are, and perhaps still allow to make more great friendships. Good luck with your future!

  5. Congratulations on finishing school. I remember when I was in your shoes about 12 years ago. I agree with some of the previous comments. If you’ve got things on you life’s to do list, try to get them done as soon as possible. As my friend told me years ago, “in the course of your life, you can always make money, but you can never make back time”. Good luck.

  6. Charlie, you will be doing something great. If not at work, you’ll have a lasting impact on the people around you at the bare minimal. You set your goal high, but yet you’re always able to reach it. You’re running out of things to achieve, is probably why you’re feeling less than fulfilling. But really, look at the things you’ve achieved, you made everlasting friends from your 12 years+ of friendship, good grades, an awesome job lined up for you, so really, it’s about time you pad yourself in the back and enjoy the moment. Like you said, it isn’t about graduating from Waterloo, or the 3% raise you’ll get from work – its the little details of everyday that adds to the color. Even though Waterloo isn’t PEI, but there are people here who care about you too, and wouldn’t think twice about ditching some work to spend more time to get to know you 🙂

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