“You must have three plans” a well-renowned professor said. “The first one always falls through. The second one is iffy, so you need a third to fall back on.”
I quirked my mouth to the left. But I will be different, my twenty-something, bright-eyed college self thought. My first plan will work. I’ll get it right the first time.
Since that time…how do I say this? Nothing has gone as planned:
-My plan A was to graduate from college, get my M.A. and Ph.D. by 25-27, and have a generally successful career. This…did not happen.
-My plan B was to get an editing job…somewhere. Anywhere. Instead, I settled into food/retail, which completely changed how I viewed and related to people. I also learned from watching friends in the editing field that I am much better off as a freelance editor.
-My plan C was to be a cake decorator and open a cake decorating business. Turns out, being up to my elbows in icing is not my life calling. I’ve stopped baking for church events other than “my” church people or guests we have.
I went through all three of my plans before I turned 30.
A constant in my life has been that I don’t have control over what happens next. This time last year, I was a florist; last week, I signed my second school contract. One day my mother was hanging out in my dorm room; the next day, she was given mere months to live. Even if you believe in God, a higher power, karma, or nothing at all, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. Maybe 5 year plans work for you, but as you can see – mine haven’t. 🙂
I’ve considered that maybe I’m just really bad at making goals. I see friends make goals and achieve them: buying homes, moving to new places, starting families, making career achievements, and I’m so happy for my friends successes…but I also wonder whether my plan failures mean a deeper problem in me.
I’ve always been…an odd duck. My general “future plans” make others uncomfortable: I don’t want a mortgage. My family gives me permission to live where I need to live. I have little concept of “home.” For a long time, I dubbed these thoughts as immature, and it’s a fear factor putting these thoughts in a public place. But given my failed life plans and my…adventurous career path, now I’m wondering if this way of thinking is okay…and maybe expected for who I am.
So, my plan D is To Not Have a Plan. Not having a plan in your twenties is quaint and expected. Not having a plan in your thirties – the age of owning a couch and marathon running – is scary. It seems irresponsible. Not having a plan takes courage because you’re giving up control. In a world of scheduling coffee dates months in advance, I need to stop mourning others’ lack of flexibility and re-evaluate the control I want over my own circumstances. I’m being asked to revel in uncertainty and admit “I have no idea what’s next.”
Does plan D mean lazing around until I’m handed an opportunity? Heck no. Amidst giving up control, I’m staying faithful to the challenges before me: I want to take some classes. I’m re-taking the GRE. I’m working on my novel. I’m choosing mental and physical health. I’m asking questions, making lists, and praying a lot.
The scariest part about Not Having a Plan is there’s a good chance I could be wrong. Like, really wrong. When you open yourself up to everything…everything could also go awry. My life has gone differently than I expected – but often in way better ways than I could’ve planned. Many times, my “failures” were moments I was growing into who I’m supposed to be. Right now, I think I need to be open to failure to move forward.
Who knows what could happen next?
I can’t wait to find out.