Today is my birthday, which means it’s time for new goals for this age. (It also means I’m just a decade away from being the age that’s the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything.)

Instead of 3 definite goals + 1 optional goal, this year I have 3 that are quantitative and 2 that are qualitative–so 3+2 again, except the “+2” things aren’t optional, just difficult to put a metric to. Here they are:

1. Take a fiction writing class
I always picture myself writing fiction on my ranch in the distant future, but I haven’t written anything since college. I know myself well enough to know I need a deadline to actually produce something, so taking a class will hopefully get me going.

2. Write 3 short stories
These can be very short stories, and they can be part of what I have to do for class, but this goal will theoretically give me the deadline I need to keep writing.

3. Read a new book a month
For someone who likes to read as much as I do, I don’t read new things. I have Sherlock Holmes, M.F.K. Fisher, Hemingway, and Salinger just about memorized, but I’ve missed out on most of the new books from the last 15 years and still have holes in my classics (1984, Brave New World, any Updike, etc. ). So this goal will help address that a little. (I’m still picking my 12 books, so stay tuned.)

and the +2:

+1. Be happier in my work
This is qualitative for now because I don’t know what it’s going to take for me to be happier. Just an attitude adjustment? Some internal changes at my current job? A different ad gig? A radical career shift? I’ve been pondering this for a while now, but I’m still “living my way into the answer.” (Damn, that is a useful quote–I’m not lost; I’m deep.)

+2. Less judgement, more compassion
I’ve never felt particularly kindly towards my fellow man, but as I get older I don’t need my hard little heart to become even harder. You can give yoga or the Buddha credit for this one, but I like to give it a scientific spin, too: We’re all made of the same atoms from the same universe. And we’re all here on this tiny planet all together. And that’s all we’ve got. So let’s all be a little kinder to each other, starting with myself.

Or, as my boyfriend Carl Sagan says:
Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.

We will see how well I can put the last two Things into practice when I go back to work tomorrow…but for today, I’m going to climb a mountain.