As a second grade feminist, I was convinced I’d be the first female baseball player in the MLB. I’m not entirely sure why I thought this: I had been the worst t-ball player on the (all male) team and did not have particularly good aim. Needless to say that after proving to be the worst player on the girls softball team for two years running and realizing baseball bored me, this particular ambition of mine faded into the distance.
Next on my “when I grow up” list was veterinarian — but I don’t do blood and couldn’t stomach the idea of watching pets die every day; shortly after that was Disney animator or fashion designer, but I can’t draw (as both my high school art teacher and college drawing professor would often remind me), plus my fashion sense is guided by comfort over style.
Once I settled on a career path that seemed more me, something in the creative storytelling fields (design, film, writing), the plans for my future became more detailed, less focused on work and more so on all of the other cool stuff that comes with being an adult: college plans, romantic prospects, dream cars; wedding plans, completed manuscripts, goal weight. Things that a younger you can be so sure of, things that never come to pass.
This has been on my mind a lot lately, as I’ve worked with a health coach and counselor, examining the roots of my anxiety and exploring my motivations, ambitions, and priorities. I’ve been spending more time questioning what I want, why I want it, and what my true goals are. And trust me, as a planner, I have long lists of them. Things to do, places to go, books to write, projects to finish, pounds to lose. It wouldn’t be that hard to plan out the next five, ten, twenty years…. on paper.
Recently I came across an old journal entry of mine, written one month before I moved to Paris for 10 months, and it made me laugh:
July 11, 2005
after school (which i would really like to finish in five years so thats the model i’m going with), before i move to vancouver (which is REALLY happening i dont care what i have to do), i am going to use that summer to travel. i cant take a whole year like so many of these crazy people are doing because i’m more career oriented than they are, and thats fine. but i do want to go off and travel a bit before moving and trying to settle into a good job, etc.
so, as soon as i graduate, i’m packing and flying to australia, where currently i know three people. actually i know some adults too. i will stay there for a few weeks, maybe a month, traveling around, seeing what i can, visiting who i can, etc. from australia, maybe during that month, i would like to go to some pacific islands (other than new zealand which i also want to see), and see some of the tropical, polynesian-esque paradise everyone speaks of. i do want to go to thailand, so maybe i’ll do that that summer too, or i’ll wait till a winter in vancouver and take off some weeks and do that.
so after my month or so of exploratory travel, i’m going to pack up my car, find someone who wants to drive cross country to whistler who would drive my moving truck of stuff promising them a place to stay in whistelr – hell i could ask warren and camille to do it since they’ve always wanted to drive cross country – then me and my bro are are going to get in my car and drive cross country seeing cool stuff along the way. take a week or so to do that. by that time he will have graduated high school and if his plan goes as planned, he too would be moving to BC. but even if he doesnt, it would still be nice to have someone in the car and by then i think we’ll be getting along even better.
so thats my TENTATIVE plans for the future. i dont know what will happen between now and then, but thats the goal i’m working towards.
What a lofty dreamer I was. As we all should be! So much has changed in the last 12 years, so much has happened UNaccording to plan. I don’t have one ounce of regret for not doing any of the things I thought I wanted to do in 2005.
Instead, it took me 5.5 years to graduate, during which time I fell in and out of love twice, studied abroad, was a PA on a small indie film, and made a documentary. After college, I was not Whistler-bound (except to see the Olympics in 2010) and have yet to make it to Oz. Instead, I moved to Tennessee to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Because this plan, the travel-around-the-Pacific-and-move-to-Canada plan, was not what I wanted to do, even just 3 short years after I wrote it down.
Planning has always been one of my hobbies, and I’m very bad at spontaneity. But I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that planning too much or having such high expectations causes me more stress, disappointment and anxiety than satisfaction. I’ve been working with my TalkSpace counselor this year to learn to let go of things, to not need to plan, or at least to plan to NOT plan things. It’s been a challenging but positive learning experience.
By not planning everything, and actively trying to go with the flow and curb my anxiety, we’ve been able to have some pretty swell adventures and stumble onto unexpected experiences. Getting a tattoo with my dad. Randomly catching up with a friend from CA in NYC. Holding a baby jaguar. Working together. Accidentally hanging out with some ladies of the night in Rotterdam. Hanging out with some cruise crew members in port. Bringing a third cat into our family. Buying our dream house before we sold our old house.
Nothing about our current life resembles what I had planned for myself 10 years ago, and I love every single thing about it.
I have no idea what our life will look like in five or ten years. Will we have the same jobs? Will we be parents? Will we have more cats, or a new car, or finally have done our master bathroom remodel? I don’t know, and I’m okay with that.
Instead of a five-year plan I have my 40 Before 40 list and a bunch of goals for myself and my family. I want to continue working on my anxiety and getting healthier, physically and mentally. I want to host Thanksgiving, continue reading 52+ books every year, and learn to do crow pose for more than 5 seconds. There are half a dozen more tattoos I’d like one day. I’d love for us to host an exchange student and I want us to raise a global-conscious and travel-loving kiddo. When, or if, these things happen isn’t as important to me as having these goals as daily motivation. I’ll continue planning to NOT plan, trying to not fight the flow, and see what happens.
Are you more of a planner or a by-the-seat-of-your-pantser? What unexpected joys or adventures have you gotten by not over-planning? Do you make plans or set goals for your family? Do you have a X Before X list? What’s on your bucket or wander lists?