When I was 15 I had a single-minded vision: I wanted to be a journalist.
There were no other options.
I was so focused on this goal that I selected only one preference as my choice of further study when I sat for my final high school exams.
At the time, there were only two colleges which offered a journalism degree – one in Sydney and the other in Bathurst, 200km west of Sydney. The latter one had the more reputable course so that was the one I selected.
The possibility that I wouldn’t be accepted into my first – and only – choice of study simply didn’t enter my thoughts. There was nothing else that I wanted to do; it was my calling.
Now, this determination antagonized my Greek parents who endeavored to convince me that I pursue the more respectable path of being a secretary, followed soon afterwards by marriage, a mortgage and children.
I balked and rebelled.
During my final years of high school, I arranged my own work experience with a suburban newspaper in Sydney where I rewrote media releases and initiated my own news stories.
I still have that first reference I received from the then editor, dated 18/08/1980. In part, he wrote:
“…if she is serious about journalism, it will probably be very difficult to break into, as it is extremely tough and competitive, and to some degree dependent on good contacts.”
If he was trying to discourage me, it didn’t work.
Several sentences later, he mentioned that “she handled these (assignments) with more aplomb than I had expected, and has in fact done quite well with her tasks.”
It pays to read comments in the right context.
I pursued additional work experience during college vacations with a Sydney magazine, a suburban community newsletter and a regional newspaper. I was getting as much hands on experience as I could while studying.
During my final months at college I responded to an advertisement for a cadet journalist position in Goulburn, NSW and as soon as my studies finished, I walked into my first job.
A short-lived career
Two years later I decided to spend a year in Greece. I was fleeing from the clutches of my parents’ insistence that I return to Sydney and “settle down”.
In my parents' absence, my Greek aunts did their best to line me up with a good Greek boy and attempted to convince me to settle down in Greece instead.
To the dismay of all involved, neither ploy worked. There was just too much to see and do in the world.
As I embarked on new adventures overseas, my career goals diminished in importance and were replaced by travel goals.
My earlier, steadfast focus subsequently splintered, radiating outwards to new opportunities, some of which I hadn’t planned or previously considered. They kind of just happened: like going to Japan and teaching English, or working at the Sydney Olympics.
These unexpected detours opened up other possibilities: working in Athens with Japanese inbound tour groups, working as a tour guide in Sydney, returning to Greece for the Athens Olympics.
Had I persisted in that single vision of remaining a journalist for the rest of my life, I may not have noticed all those other options on offer.
By now, I had totally discarded the concept of a “career” and instead, I accommodated jobs around my travels.
Years ago while still in corporate thinking mode, I used to have an Excel spreadsheet outlining my short, medium and long-term plans, including timelines, actions required, and projected completion dates.
Although these plans revolved predominantly around travel, I’d also included further studies and ongoing professional development.
As I ticked off each goal and achievement, it was quickly replaced by another one. And another. Bigger. Better. More…
And while I achieved most of my goals on that ever-increasing list, there were some that just didn’t get a look in. For whatever reason, I didn’t have the time, or inclination, or ability to follow through to completion.
Does that make me a failure? Or perhaps I lacked conviction or motivation? Sometimes I even thought it was just laziness.
No matter how hard I tried, though, a few goals remained out of reach. The more I pursued them, the more elusive they became. I was putting in a lot of effort with zero results.
And I was probably missing out on other possibilities because I was narrowly focused on my spreadsheet goals.
On being goal-less
As a new decade dawned in 2000, another major goal started to take shape: Tibet - my ultimate destination.
I always said that I’d die happy if I made it there.
Please don’t panic! I don’t have a death wish (although I’ve done a few reckless and highly dangerous things in my time– but they occurred long before my pilgrimage to Tibet).
I arrived in Lhasa in May 2007, in time for the Saga Dawa Festival at Mt Kailash.
And as I ticked off that last achievement I realized there wasn’t much else I wanted to do in life - except retire.
I suddenly found myself in the uncomfortable position of being goal-less.
Goals vs intentions
Without warning, or any planning on my part, I’ve lost my focus. I have no more goals. No aspirations. There’s nothing else I want to achieve.
The only lists I now make are things to do and shopping lists, only so I remember to buy toilet paper or lodge my tax return.
So what the heck am I going to do with the rest of my (long) life?
'What if all I need to do is allow the unfolding of my essential nature? What if all I need to do is to become who I really am? What if this is enough?' – The Dance, Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Have you noticed how most of our goals are focused on material things, such as career, clients, KPIs, money, home, children, travel, fitness, a new car and so on?
But how many people focus their intentions on: joy, creativity, peace, harmony, love and compassion? What does it actually mean to live this way?
Since I relocated to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland two-and-a-half years ago, I’ve been telling people that I came here for retirement, but perhaps this needs some clarification: I’ve retired from the corporate world, the 9-5 routine, KPIs and strategic plans.
In the meantime, I’ve been actively involved in community events and have set my intention on doing things I enjoy, such as singing in a community choir, Toastmasters and writing.
There are still many places I want to visit, and there’s that unfinished manuscript sitting on the bookshelf , but does it really matter if I don’t become a number one best selling children’s author? And does it make any difference if I don’t ever make it to World Champion of Public Speaking?
These goals are no longer important, compared to my intentions of living life in joy and peace, and allowing new possibilities to present themselves in their own timing.
Perhaps, I’m finally at peace with myself and am now okay with who I am, rather than what I am.
'Don’t tell me how wonderful things will be… someday.
Show me you can risk being completely at peace,
truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment,
and again in the next and the next and the next…'
- The Dance, Oriah Mountain Dreamer
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS