Manyu worries Clare has no goals for the future. I, on the other hand, don’t think Clare should have much in the way of goals just out of college. I would prefer she didn’t wait until her late thirties to start a career or a family, but better that than having everything mapped out at an early age. Our daughter cut the apron strings years ago, and now I choose to believe that everything else will gradually fall into place. 

When Manyu voiced her concerns, I told her I’d gone my entire life without clear goals and still turned out pretty well. Manyu strongly disagreed about me not having goals and was far from certain about how well I’d turned out. She asked if I remembered an old journal she and I found in a box of junk stashed in my mom’s basement. The journal had been mine, and I’d written as a teenager that I would grow up to be a college professor and a writer. I don’t remember knowing what I wanted to be when I was eighteen years old (nor do I remember ever keeping a journal), but somehow I must have sensed what I was destined to be. For Manyu, this proves I had long-term goals. 

Except I don’t think I did. No one becomes a professor or writer (or husband or doting father) by happenstance, but neither were any of those niches part of a grand plan. Plato believed each of us is born with an overarching desire for one of three things – 1) wealth, 2) knowledge, or 3) power and fame. If true, that would be enough to move any of us in at least a general direction. Having specific goals might push us along faster and probably allow us to climb higher than we would otherwise, but having goals or not having goals does not change who we fundamentally are. I am not a fatalist, but I don’t think any of us wanders too far from our true character.

Long-term goals probably make decision-making easier, but some choices in life aren’t supposed to be easy. A friend once told me that the harder a decision is, the more likely all of the viable options work equally well. If a person is always sure of which path to take, forks in the road aren’t really forks at all – and without forks, there are fewer chances to walk the roads less traveled or experience turning points in life. 

Because I didn’t set many goals during my lifetime, it is not surprising I now rationalize that goals are not necessary. Truth is, I have no idea what Clare needs in this regard. She is fairly certain her current job is not a permanent one, she thinks she might go to graduate school sometime in the next seven years, and she sees Madison as a stopover on a long sojourn. Like father, like daughter. 

Steven Simpson