(This is me waxing philosophical about doing things I didn’t originally plan on doing)
A month ago, I was talking with an acquaintance about my job. The two of us work in similar industries, so we naturally had a lot to talk about. Over the course of the conversation, he posed a question to me: “Do you think you’ll keep doing this?”
And to be honest, I didn’t have a good answer. For some time, I’ve viewed my current job as temporary. My ultimate dream was to go back to my college and work for them, but since my internship I’ve had my heart set on spending my 20s in Chicago and experiencing what the city has to offer to young person like myself. I explained this to my acquaintance, and, realizing that I felt like I was lying when I said I wanted to go back to my college, said, “But honestly, I have no idea how long I’ll be at my current job. I don’t have a five year plan. I don’t even have a one year plan.”
I’m Type A to a fault (to a fault), so a week or so ago I thought to myself, “You know, I should really probably come up with a five year plan, or at least some semblance of a five year plan.” So I started thinking. I started trying to picture my future. And I came to one conclusion:
Five year plans are for the birds.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think it’s bad to have a general idea of where you want your life to take you. I don’t think it’s bad to set goals and work for them. But I don’t know how I feel about this whole five year plan thing.
If you had asked me five years ago where I thought I would be today, I would’ve told you that I’d have graduated from my college (true) with a degree in English with a creative writing emphasis (wrong), that I had spent a semester in Scotland during my junior year (wrong), that’d I’d be employed as an editor in one degree or another by a major publishing house (wrong), and, perhaps most significantly, that I’d either be in a serious relationship, engaged, or married (so, so, so wrong. Laughably wrong.). As a second semester senior in high school, this is exactly what I had my heart set on, and I was 100% sure my life would turn out that way.
As it turns out, I was (almost) 100% wrong. The reason I was wrong on most of those counts is because I was open to trying new things. Even though I had this set-in-stone (in my eyes) plan for my life, I kind of took things as they came to me. I joined a student organization I never, ever dreamed I’d be a part of as a way of trying to get more connected to campus after an awful first semester of college, and it completely changed my career direction and, consequently, some of the major decisions I made in college (like doing an internship in Chicago over spending a semester in Scotland). I applied for positions and jobs I never thought I’d apply for and I got them–and they changed the direction of my life.
I don’t know where I want to be five years from now. I don’t know if I’ll still be working the job I’m currently working. I don’t know if I’ll still be in Chicago. And to be honest, I really think that’s okay.
I chose to post this today in place of my usual Thursday Things because January 17 holds a special significance to me. Two years ago today, I moved to Chicago for the first time. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I did not want to be here. I wanted to be back at my college, and I hated myself for applying to and accepting a spot in the program where I spent that semester. I never, ever could have dreamed on the drive that morning from Michigan to Chicago that I was about to start a program that would open all sorts of doors and completely change who I am as a person for the better. I can confidently say that if I hadn’t done that program, I would not be a runner, I would not be a blogger, and I would not be living in Chicago right now. All three of those things–major parts of who I am today–are a direct result of my semester in Chicago.
I guess the main thing I hope to convey through all of this is that I think it’s more important to be open to the unexpected than to have tunnel vision while working towards your goals. Like I said, I don’t think it’s bad to have goals, but I think it’s important to be flexible in how you go about achieving those goals. When I moved to Chicago in June, one of my goals was to make friends, which is a lot easier said than done when going from an environment full of clubs and organizations and groups entirely composed of your peers (i.e.: college) to a city of 2.7 million. I planned to do this through sports leagues. Then I ended up volunteering (for, admittedly, a very hot second) at an animal shelter…where I found out about a hip hop class…which I ended up taking…and then taking again with two breakdance classes thrown in on top of it. Do you think I ever dreamed I’d take a hip hop class when I moved? Absolutely not. That was in no way on my list of Potential Places to Make Friends. But I was open to the idea, and it ended up being, to be honest, the best decision I’ve made thus far in my Chicago life.
I think being open to the unexpected can provide us opportunities and experiences beyond our wildest dreams, and ultimately, I think that leads to a more satisfying life than following any five year plan.