Middle age shifts your perspective and broadens your frame of reference. Time has helped me accumulate multiple examples that demonstrate the evolution of both aspirations and exasperations.
Then: Stasis is death. Seek novelty in every experience. Always keep moving.
Now: Repetition creates opportunity for eventual mastery. Ritual lends comfort. Routine is a blessing. Roots form only when a seed stays in the same soil.
Then: Please my academic mentors, apply to fellowship, obtain grant funding, obtain another degree, land a coveted junior faculty position in a geographically desirable location near family, earn a reputation as a beloved teacher, gain tenure. Also meet a partner and start a family that will unconditionally support me in my academic pursuits.
Now: Be the best partner I am capable of being, raise moral kids whose company I enjoy, find person with whom I can connect deeply in my community, find small meaningful ways to mend a broken world. Also spend a few days a month in the hospital to pay the bills.
Then: I'm tired of ordering an opiate despite the warning that this patient has reported an allergy to codeine. The system deleted my "template favorites" file from the dictation software during the latest upgrade. My quarterly metrics make me feel like a widget on an assembly line, and seem to suggest that despite my hand-holding inclinations I need to spend less time per patient to buff my stats.
Now: Aggravations, no less obtrusive, seem manageable based on their reduced role in my life.
Then: Travel is my real life, an escape from daily drudgery and the chance to be my best self. More is better.
Now: Travel is a complement to the life I've built, at times an escape, but never a substitute. It reminds me of my extreme good fortune in the ovarian lottery as well as my obligation to others.
Then: Compared to most of the world, I am blessed.
Now: Compared to most of the world, I am rich. This confers privilege and potential that I'm tasked not to squander.
Then: After I reach X I'll start to live my ideal life.
Now: How can I subtract an aggravation each year so that my actual and ideal lives more closely resemble one another.
Then: When I retire...
Now: What will I do with my day?
Then: I'd take fitness more seriously if I didn't have work.
Now: Fitness is incorporated as part of my routine.
Then: Enough is a moving goalpost.
Now: Enough is a goal within reach. The interesting part arrives after you reach it.