Wherein I turn in the direction of the music

I’ve had a semi-ironic appointment with myself on the calendar for a few months now, called “Colleen’s Happy Holiday Break.”

In case it’s not obvious, I’m ambivalent at best when it comes to the season. I do look forward to certain treats, the annual viewing of The Third Man, the delivery of the pears. But on top of the regular-usual seasonal depression, this year and last have been a little brutal when it comes to my backwards/forwards review and goal-planning for one simple reason: I have no idea what I’m doing next.

Or maybe I do, and am avoiding it. I know, for example, that I need to continue letting go of the things I acquired during the accumulative years, all the shit I was buying and trying as I looked outside of myself for my style and my wants and my definition*. I know I need to really and truly (and literally) close the books on my moribund graphic design business, something I’d already be fighting because of my perennial money issues but that’s exponentially (haha) more difficult because it means I really and truly need to commit to the next thing.

What I don’t know yet is what the next thing looks like, because there’s no track for it. There was a school track, an advertising track, an acting track. Even graphic design was a sort of track: I knew what the jobs looked like, I knew either how to go get them or could enlist help in figuring it out. I’m good at tracks! Maybe most of us are. Given a clear target, figuring out where to point one’s guns is pretty simple; without a target, one tends to spend most of one’s time bivouacked on the fields of WTF, smoking unfiltered cigarettes and trying to hold the freakouts at bay.**

I have cordoned off these two weeks for search purposes, keeping them relatively free of commitments. The few non-holiday-related ones are my lifelines, the accountability meetups (I’m up to three regularly scheduled ones, plus a one-off). The interior renovations began in earnest yesterday, as I began prep on my annual 100 Things list.*** A tradition that began as a silly exercise has turned into a silly exercise that has me dumping the contents of every memory container in the digital house all over the desktop and sifting through it. Cathartic! And horrifying!

I’m not alone in this, thank gawd. Backwards/forwards values-based planning is all the rage now, and there are wonderful, detailed posts from all sorts of smart folks who are organized enough to have this plan underway, if not already completed. I’m also weighing the possibility of chucking my old program and just rolling with a Happiness Project in 2010. Hey, who couldn’t use more happiness, right?

Wherever I end up, though, I start here: me, (metaphorically) naked, my stuff spread out before me under a good, strong light.

Words of wisdom and encouragement (and even commiseration) most welcome…


*Don’t get me wrong, that decade of 38-to-48 was wildly important, and I regret very little of it. But to keep scouring the world outside for answers would be like a 14-year-old still playing dress-up from the tatty cast-offs in mom’s trunk.

**Okay. No one is dying on these battlefields anytime soon. Bad analogy, perhaps. But likening my mental state to one of the characters from Interiors is too embarrassing even for me, not to mention hopelessly obscure.

***If you’ve never had the pleasure and enjoy list-y stuff, they’re 95% evergreen: 2008 (Part 1 & Part 2) will link you to all the rest. Or let Google do the work for you.

Image by eddiedangerous via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. These are the very same questions and issues I wrestle with lately – deciding that looking outside for cues and meaning, while infinitely simpler, doesn’t actually lead me home … the fear of stepping off of the tracks … ahhh. I have no words of wisdom but many of empathy and company on this scary off-map journey.

  2. I hear ya, Colleen. That school of “jump and ye shall be caught” requires a staggering amount of bravery.

    Me, I am not a jumper but I am learning to play. I’ve sent out my goals as if they had already happened – everytime I think “we successful people would do ____”, I feel like Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally. I smile like a goof! Last week, I did a day of 2010 business planning with four other people – we called each other at 9:00, 11:00 and then met to celebrate in person at 2:00. It was encouraging to hear how people were challenged and successful and wacky in their own planning.

    Enough crazy, wonderful things are out there waiting for you to keep you amused and wealthy … can’t ya feel it?! I’m pretty sure that I am not the only person to open your messages with a feeling of excitement for – what’s Colleen gonna say today?

    Get out there and ride that pony … this is your show!

  3. I found your name through an article in Layers Magazine, I believe it was. Or perhaps it was that you were mentioned in a piece by Ilise Benun. My memory recall fails me on a day before my vacation day! Woohoo! In any case, I find myself inspired by the realism of your output. I’m checking out the Hapiness Project – sure why not, I have only happiness to gain. I wish you well on your continued journey and look forward to experiencing it with you through your blog.

  4. Are you sure you didn’t steal my brain? Because I am also feeling dicey on the whole “making a plan for next year” situation because of how I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year — and that is at least in part because of how I’m a little afraid of deciding what I want!

    So in case it helps to know that you’re not crazy and not the only person ever to feel this way, I would like to affirm that you are neither! And I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  5. Ah, transitions, transitions. I’m still emerging from one of my own. On the one hand they’re exciting because possibility breaks open and pretty much anything could happen, and on the other hand they’re terrifying for the same reason.

    What I do know — or sense — from your writing is that you are someone who knows how to give meaning to things and make meaning out of things. Which means you really do have everything you need, and will slowly but steadily figure out what to do with it. You’ll pull the different elements of your life together into some new, unique, cohesive whole.

    “Wherever I end up, though, I start here: me, (metaphorically) naked, my stuff spread out before me under a good, strong light.”

    That’s not such a bad place to be. Many people can’t get there at all.

  6. For me the key part is the tracks or lack there of … as a wise man once said: “Choose your ruts carefully because you will be in them a long time.”

    I am afraid I am with you in the same boat with that focus thing.

    The best of luck to you and getting untracked so to speak and to a great 2010.

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