My newest find on the internet is personal finance sites. The advice they give is alternately inspirational (if I can save $20 a month now, I won’t have to eat cat food when I retire!) and terrifying (oh my God, I have no emergency fund!). But the real blow was not this quote: “If you think it’s hard to make ends meet now, try doing it when you’re old and sick.” No, sobering as that was, the real blow was being told in an article to make a life map.

The idea behind a life map is to start with long-term goals, then find shorter- and still shorter-term steps to reach them, so you have a meaning and purpose to your savings plan. The article suggests starting with your name and then attaching your biggest goals to it, working outwards in a sort of spiderweb, with the shortest-term goals on the outside leading into the main goals on the inside.

“Cool,” I thought. “A life map. I’ll do that.” But then I discovered I have nothing to put on my map.

Seriously. Three things floated through my head. Three. They were, in order:
1. Own an alpaca ranch in a place that’s kind of like Hawaii and kind of like Castle Valley.
2. Go to the Cook Islands.
3. Win the National Book Award before I’m sixty. (I only write if there’s a deadline. Therefore, sixty.)

Now, you may argue that these are indeed goals. If I can save and invest, yes, I could get a ranch. And even go to the Cook Islands. (More about writing coming up.) But what about things like changing the world, spiritual growth, home ownership, even having a family? The life map example used “being a good parent” as one of the primary goals. I suppose it’s a mercy that didn’t cross my mind, because I suspect having a relationship last for more than three months should come before wanting to be a good parent, and I haven’t even managed that yet.

As for being a writer, it’s the one thing in my life I’ve always felt I could do. But then I go and read All The Pretty Horses (which won the National Book Award) again after realizing I have lame goals for my life map and think, “Just abandon all of them now, including the Book Award one. Because you will never, ever, be as good as this guy.” Case in point:

“They rode out along the fencline and across the open pastureland. The leather creaked in the morning cold. They pushed the horses into a lope. The lights fell away behind them. They rode out on the high prairie where they slowed the horses to a walk and the stars swarmed around them out of the blackness. They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumpsect, like theives newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing.”

Reading that passage, I can’t imagine coming up with anything remotely as good, ever. But, reading that passage, I don’t care about goals, or my own talent, or anything else. I just want to keep reading.

So if I end up homeless from not having parenting goals that would motivate me to make a savings plan, I’ll hang out at the library.