To be honest, I cannot remember many of the ambitions I had when I was very young. That doesn’t really matter much, though, since most of my goals have changed over time. They have changed not because I gave up on them, but because I have transformed. I no longer want the things I wanted long ago. My “self” today does not have the same interests, desires, and priorities as my 10-year-old self, or my 20-year-old self, or even my 30-year-old self. As one learns and grows, this inevitably happens. Reality sets in, certainly, but what one desires changes as one matures as well. I can recall a time when I did not desire marriage or a family, but having been married for nearly 28 years now and since having a beautiful daughter, whom I cherish, I now realize this change of plans was for the good. These types of goals are temporary; they are fleeting and alterable. But I also possess unchangeable, overriding goals that I have embraced for as long as I can remember and that are of utmost importance. My overwhelming desire is to be able to remain centered on those aspects of life I value – God, family, friends, humanity – and to somehow serve a purpose and make a difference in this world.
Flexibility and willingness to adjust short-term goals are vital when living with a chronic illness, I think. Some goals that I once pursued have had to change since being diagnosed with gastroparesis. For instance, I can no longer devote my time and energy to building the career I once thought I would have. Though I initially planned to return to full-time work at some point, I can see that is not physically feasible anymore. But that is acceptable because I have learned that I can devote my time and energy to advocacy work instead. It is quite fulfilling and meaningful, and it has been a welcome substitute for my old career. I likely also cannot travel and relocate as I once dreamed I would. But again, that is tolerable because I am close to family and friends now, whom I rely upon to help me with the tasks I can no longer accomplish due to my illness.
As a matter of fact, this modification of routines and circumstances in my life due to my illness has actually been a blessing. I have been able to spend more time with my family, my faith has grown, my compassion and understanding have developed to a much deeper level, and I now feel as if I have an important purpose in life – to help others, especially those who struggle with this devastating disease. One might say I have found my true calling, and that is all I have ever really desired, although I did not become fully conscious of this until recently.
Today, I have set some short-term objectives: to make my bed every day (for reasons which I might address in future writings); to stick to an exercise routine (although it is a much shorter and less physically demanding routine than it once was); to get through this Wego Challenge (which Ms. Trisha High Bundy dragged me kicking and screaming into – and for which I am grateful – because sometimes she knows better than I do what is good for me); to attend the upcoming Rob Thomas concert (even if I must be wheeled in on a stretcher); and a few others which I will keep to myself for now. I continue to adjust and add to these goals as my needs and desires change.
I have other aspirations as well: to raise my child to be a productive, happy, and moral human being; to remain committed to my spouse and our life together; to be a true friend to my fellow human beings; to serve God to the best of my ability; and to do everything in my power to assist and advocate for others. These are the pursuits that serve my ultimate purpose and the ends I do not anticipate changing. They are the unalterable goals that must be met despite circumstances and changes in short-term plans. They are the ambitions my 10-year-old self knew little of; yet they are the things worth living for.