Lifelong Goals Review

Robin Cravey

I’m finally setting aside my lifelong goal to win election to public office. It’s been a hard decision, but I feel good about it.

I turned 65 recently. This has been the first birthday that has made me fundamentally re-evaluate my goals. My annual goals review is something I’ve done for decades, but the evaluation was along the lines of a performance review. I made this amount of progress toward one goal and that amount of progress toward another.

This year, I felt the need to think anew and make some decisions. If I am to realize any of my ambitions, I think I have to choose.

I have now lived longer than my Daddy did. He was killed by the family cancer. I was wounded but survived. I intend to live another 50 years, but I’m tired of inching forward on all fronts. I want to get moving.

Besides providing for my family, my two great temporal goals have been to speak important truths to the world and to lead political change. At this stage in my career, it would be fair to ask whether I have the ability to do either. Maybe I should concentrate on one.

My first ambition, from my teen years, was to “be a writer.” Or to “be a poet.” I loved the world of ideas and the music and power of words, and I wanted to use those tools to express my genius. Just being honest. But the achievement of that expression would be the delivery of important truths that the world needs for enlightenment.

Close behind came my second ambition, to win election to public office. From my earliest manhood I have believed, and I still believe, that the United States is the action arm of the Enlightenment. Free citizens create a better world through enlightened government. And at its core stood the elected representatives of the people. What higher calling could there be?

I think of these two paths as the Way of Knowing and the Way of Doing. I’ve tried to follow them both.

The Way of Knowing

I started writing poetry as a pre-teen, and I’ve done it pretty much continually ever since. There are other forms of writing, of course. I’ve done a fair amount of journalism. I once expected that I would write novels, but I never did. These days, I do a lot of legal writing.

Poetry is the medium to reconcile thought and feeling. But it’s more than that. It’s a way to bring a new concept into the world. Start with just the spark of a concept glowing within you. Patiently let it grow. Slowly feed words into it. See which ones absorb the glow. Don’t smother it. Look for patterns. Bring more words to hand, but keep them in reserve until the concept is ready for them. Most will be laid aside, but gradually a fire will take life. And then, the fire will sing!

Writing is joy. Mailing off manuscripts is drudgery. I have continued to write and perform and publish poetry. It’s all been at a pretty low level. I made an effort to launch into it seriously in the 1980s, when I started Tilted Planet Press. I was making some good progress, but a major recession killed it. I continued writing, but didn’t publish much.

The Way of Doing

I turned to the way of doing. I had already been trekking down that way, volunteering in campaigns and in the Democratic Party, serving in various community and action organizations from the Central America Peace Initiative to the Zilker Elementary PTA and the Zilker Neighborhood Association. To prepare myself for action, I decided to go to law school.

At 45 I graduated from law school and went to work as a city council aide. I was on the way. After three years I left city hall to start a law office and re-establish my independence. I figured to run for council pretty soon.

Practicing law turned out to be a little more complicated than I expected, and I got bogged down. Then I developed the family cancer, had to have surgery, and that set me back. As my Daddy used to say, “Things are tough all over.”

I decided to put a little effort into cleaning up Barton Springs Pool, which has turned out to be my biggest community service project yet. Maybe ever.

Finally, in 2007, I felt ready. I ramped up and ran in the 2008 council election. My campaign staff was my older daughter and my dear-as-a-daughter. I loved it! I loved everything about campaigning. Knocking on doors, writing position papers, debating at candidate forums, giving speeches, working a room. I loved it all. In the end, though, I didn’t win.

Finding my way

I went back to my law practice and worked at reviving it against the headwind of another recession. I went back to the Barton Springs projects. Just to keep my sanity, I started hiking and writing and publishing poetry again. The seasons rolled by.

So I’ve been working overtime at the law practice, working on the Barton Springs projects, working on the poetry, and keeping an eye out for my next opening to run for office. I feel like the cowboy who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions.

I’m ready to pick a direction, and it’s the way of knowing. It’s going to be fun to figure out what that means. Does this mean that I’ll never run for office again? I’m not even thinking about it.