Impossible Goals and Acceptable Failure

If you read my blog frequently, you know I tend to write reflection pieces a week before a major transition. This is one of those. 

Life is made of impossibilities. People recover from the loss of their children, women survive childbirth, college students do not universally drop dead of liver failure, and most people like their friends. Books get written. People win Olympic medals. 

All of these things that actually happen all the time contain hundreds of micro-goals (in childbirth, I am told that one of them is "do not assassinate husband immediately following this contraction. Repeat."). Books get written in half-hour spurts, daily, for years. Grief is endured. Olympians run additional laps, lift a couple more weights, pass on a couple more parties, and miss proms. 

This summer, I decided to set some impossible goals in addition to my "Things-I-Have-to-Do" (like not fail out of my Master's Program/stay on academic target). I knew from the outset that most of them were utterly doomed to failure, so I'm happy to share this abbreviated list of Summer Goals: 

  • Learn Spanish by translating a children's book. 
  • Reach the 30,000 word mark on a novel. 
  • Re-read at least fifteen books. 
  • Read fifteen new books.
  • Earn [X] dollars. 
  • Visit New York with [X] surplus from aforementioned dollars. 
  • Write a poem every single day. 

I would like to emphasize that I did not do a single one of these things. Instead, I did other things. I stayed on Maui and worked jobs I deeply care about when the opportunity arose to do so without committing academic suicide. I started putting a new album together. I am in a play as a major character for the first time in five years. I got to work with kids on a musical, and we got to learn to fail together over and over and over until the play absolutely kicked butt (shout-out to my babies who enjoy failure as much as I do). 

And for my goals? I didn't get to 30,000 words (yet); I'm still at 26,507. I didn't write the 80 or so poems I should have; I wrote 42. I'm still hopelessly bad at Spanish, and I am really happy my University and the United States government was so generous with student loans (Thanks, Obama). I didn't get through all the books I wanted to, but I read every day (even if it was just a script). I wrote a budget and have (almost) stayed within its boundaries. 

Objectively, I failed. I did less than 50% of what I wanted to do, but I did so many things I never imagined I would get to do. Speaking subjectively, I think I learned what Dr. Clark, my creative writing professor (and one of my mentors), was trying to impress on us on the last day of class: you have to fail to succeed. The two are embedded in each other. Instead of having mixed feelings about what I did accomplish this summer, I am just proud of it. I am proud of the progress I made on a novel, proud of the work I'm doing in poetry, and especially proud of 12 Angry Jurors and Shrek Jr. and the work that we have done and are doing together. 

As far as the future? More impossible goals; more inevitable failure, and (probably) more surprising moments of grace, and more moments of hard-earned success.