Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
A ridiculous question, but I feel that way of most interview questions. However, it’s hard to reach goals you’re not actively striving to attain. A conscious life requires naming before doing.

And so, I present my current Life Goals:

1. I want a cheap life. The more money you have, the more options you have in life. Don’t like your job? Quit — you’ll have money to take care of yourself. How can you feel rich without having a lot of money? Live cheaply. This was easy for me living in China. Even making what’s considered a pretty low salary in America, I was able to save half of it. I still took taxis whenever I wanted to, went somewhat regularly for massages, and ate well. Living in New York City is a completely different story. My first year, looking for full-time work, I didn’t make much, and worked hard to be frugal. Even once I got a position teaching in the public schools I made slightly more than twice what I made in China, but I would definitely think twice about taking taxis anywhere (of course, you have an incentive not to when you have a monthly metro card), seldom went for a massage, and used a lot of Groupons to go out to nice restaurants. There are a lot of nice things about living in the city, but it can be a real drag other times. It’s hard to say it would be worth it, long term, to live in New York City. I don’t think you could have a cheap life and a “rich” life.

2. I want to enjoy nature. There are a lot of great parks in New York City, and with the MilltionTreesNYC campaign, they’re working to make streets more pleasant. For me to enjoy nature it’s more about myself making the effort to get out of my apartment, tear myself away from the screen or book, and take a walk. But in order to enjoy nature, it has to be in working order, which leads me to my next goal.

3. I want my actions to improve the environment, not harm it. I’ve admired the goal of being a caretaker of nature since my camp days, where we spent countless hours outdoors, learning about the fragility of nature, or watching The Lorax every time it rained. To live a somewhat normal life in America I find this a very difficult goal to meet. If you’re busy and want to live conveniently, your groceries or prepared meals will probably be wrapped in what seconds later will be trash. I’m currently reading “Early Retirement Extreme” by Jacob Lund Fisker. He’s pretty acerbic, but I think his characterization of today’s world makes sense: “We have an economic model that is based on pulling resources out of the ground and mostly turning them into unnecessary products, getting people to buy the products by convincing them that they need them, then getting them to throw the products away because they’re obsolete.” Live a life without polluting or making trash? It’s practically un-American!

4. I want time for contemplation. I love reading. It’s a quiet activity, very peaceful. With fiction, your mind goes on a journey and you’re completely absorbed. With nonfiction, you learn new ideas and have time to think about how the world could be if we did things the way they’re described in the book. You have time for contemplation every time you take a walk. If you meditate you might spend some time in thought, or maybe it helps clear your mind for more peaceful thoughts later. I believe peaceful time spent reading and thinking leads people to be more creative and, to use words bosses love, “productive” and “successful.” So far in my years of teaching I haven’t found much time during the school day for contemplation, which I think is to be expected. What’s worse for me, is I’ve found it hard to squeeze in downtime after school or on the weekend. Either you still have a lot of planning to do, or you’re thinking about problems your kids face or challenges you have in teaching them. I’ve gotten better at blocking out the faces and voices of my students once I leave for the day, but I still haven’t mastered the work load. I was certainly warned, before I even student-taught, that teaching did not allow for a lot of downtime. I guess I thought I would just learn to handle it. After four years of full-time teaching, I haven’t mastered it yet, but maybe 5th time’s a charm.

5. I want a fit, healthy body. My body is decently healthy and fit, but I’m always striving for the best, with the least amount of work possible. I’m always reading about food; how to grow it, prepare it, cook, and what diets our bodies thrive on. I do look forward to finally figuring it all out and have an easy routine in the kitchen.

These are my main life goals at the moment. There are probably some lesser goals I’m forgetting. Are these similar to yours? Is your life already allowing you to meet your goals?