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The Importance of Milestones

In case you're wondering, milestones are important. In a lifetime, there are all kinds of milestones, including birth, developmental milestones, educational milestones, relationship milestones, adulting milestones, employment milestones, aging milestones, and death. While these are the milestones of an "expected life trajectory," some lives are full of exceptions (except birth and death), and almost everybody lives a life rich with achieving milestones. (At this juncture, it is essential to note that what is an important milestone to one person may not even be on another's radar.)


So, exactly, why are milestones so significant? Well, milestones are ripe with goals. What, exactly, is a goal? According to Merriam-Webster, a goal is: "the end toward which effort is directed." I take this to mean that goals in life are the way to achieve milestones, and for most people, milestones are important to achieve.


Take me for example. I grew up with two things being the most important milestones: showing horses and achieving academic success, in that order. My mother worked tirelessly to reverse that order of operations, to no avail, LOL. She also emphasized the importance of physical health. Before I was born, I had a brother who died of rhabdomyosarcoma, an especially vicious form of childhood cancer. After that, my mother prioritized health over everything else – education being a close second. (Riding was on her list for me, but it was pretty far down the totem pole.)


In this life, I begin with my birth milestones and fairly average developmental milestones. As far as educational milestones, I wasn't a bad student; I was just not a very motivated or inspired student (except for English). That is until I got my first horse. I had to learn time management and study skills – those would serve me well all the way through a top-ten law school. My motivation admittedly originated because I knew the horses would disappear if my grades weren't good enough. Somewhere along the line, I found motivation in learning for learning's sake. Educational milestones – check.


My adulting milestones have been hard-won. Just being alive at this juncture is no small feat – I have made two suicide attempts, one nearly fatal. I have been married twice and twice divorced – both incredibly traumatizing experiences; I am a rape survivor; my adult life has been wracked by mental illness and psychiatric hospitalizations, a never-ending string of medications and the chronic suicidality that comes along for the ride - a ride that continues through the present day.


There are lots of things in adulthood that are hard –relationships, jobs, mental and physical health issues, etc. Adulting is not a walk in the park for anyone, but for some of us, well, managing to adult on a daily basis is to do a dance with the Beast that is suicidality in addition to regular adulting. My suicidality is so chronic and entrenched that most of the time I fully believe that I will die by my own hand. 


Adulting milestones are challenging enough for the average Joe – when you add in the Beast, well, all bets are off. Take marriage, for instance: what should be an at times difficult but incredibly meaningful relationship can become a landfill of self-doubt, self-criticism, and self-loathing when the Beast becomes involved. 


The Beast can take milestones that should be meaningful and make them memorable for all the wrong reasons. Take the milestone of parenthood. I missed out on this milestone because I thought there was only one thing I could think of that could be worse than going through the mental health struggles I have endured, and that would be watching my child go through them. Losing the opportunity to achieve the milestone of parenthood left me utterly bereft, and I will, by extrapolation, never have even a chance of achieving the milestone of grandparenthood. 


Remember, adulting is hard enough without adding in the Beast. If the Beast is a reality for you, fight for those milestones! And realize that your milestones might look different than others around you, and that's ok. In the lyrics of Prince, "We have gathered here today to get through this thing called life." Sometimes, getting through the day is a big ask; on those days, remember that your most important job is to keep yourself safe – and alive.


The Beast is a burglar that robs us of so many things, including achieving milestones that we feel are easy for others. (Spoiler – achieving milestones is not necessarily easy for those we envy as "on schedule;" spending quality time worrying that we are "behind" does nothing other than feed the Beast.) So, stop comparing yourself to others and their milestones and focus on getting through each day. For those doing battle with the Beast, defeating it is the most important milestone of all: you won't achieve any milestones if you don't keep yourself alive. Remember, the Beast only wins if we let it win.

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todd
todd
Jun 27

And Bestie, we are not going to let it win. Ever. Ever. Ever. Again. OK. That's all for now. A milestone is as simple as walking into the Dr. office asking for help. Or as difficult as overcoming the ability to ask for help That's the key, ask for help. I am learning through you, how to maybe do that!

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