If there’s one question that I despise, it’s this: “What is your 10 year plan?” Most mornings, it’s difficult for me to commit to a pair of underpants. (Hmm … should I wear the wicked wedgies, the muffin-top-makers or the holey wonders? Decision, decisions.) So how the hell am I supposed to plan something as important as My Life one whole decade in advance?
I’ve never been much of a goal setter, but that doesn’t mean I’m a no-hoper. Through circumstances, luck, and blind leaps of faith, I’ve been a graphic designer, a sailor, a business owner, and now a writer. None of these accomplishments were life goals, they were all pleasant accidents. If I’d latched-on to a solid 10 year plan when I was 20, none of these adventures would’ve happened.
At 20, I’d flick though the careers section of the newspaper every Saturday, dreaming about what I wanted to be when I grew up. With my big red pen, I’d circle an eclectic mix of careers: Nurse, park ranger, web designer, translator, gallery curator, librarian, make-up artist, horse trainer. While a number of jobs excited me, the thought of doing only one of them for the rest of my life was terrifying. I didn’t want to permanently affix myself to one title. I wanted to drift from place to place, experiencing a little bit of this, and a little bit of that.
So I grew up to be exactly what I wanted to be: a drifter.
The trouble with being a drifter:
Drifters are not well-regarded by The Man. The Man likes to slot everyone into neat categories. If you can’t be easily labeled, you’re not to be trusted. If you drift from place to place, you must be lazy and noncompliant, which means you’re unpredictable and rebellious, which makes you dangerous, which means you’ll almost definitely rob a bank on a whim wearing nothing but an ex-president face mask and a pair of holey wonders.
On important forms and censuses, we’re asked questions like: ‘What was your address five years ago?’ But my truthful answer to that question doesn’t go down well:
Address: A leaky boat called Amazing Grace, somewhere in the middle of Pacific Ocean.
If I try to reply with the truth, I’m yelled at with an angry warning:
A VALID ADDRESS IS REQUIRED IN ORDER TO PROCEED WITH THIS APPLICATION!
If I dared to submit an official form with this honest answer, I’d be eyed suspiciously while The Man privately checked a box like this:
To bypass this problem, I generally enter my parents address so that The Man can relax thinking that, five years ago, I was just another maladjusted adult living with her parents. Phew, she’s normal.
But I disagree with The Man. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with drifting. For me, having a 10 year plan would be a plot spoiler.
I like to visualize myself floating on water, drifting along the current of life’s great river. Every now and then, I get snagged in a tree or I rush down a waterfall for a scary interlude, before moving along to find the current again. Driftwood doesn’t need a ten year plan. It matches the flow of life. It twists with the curves of the river, and gets shaped by the elements. It can never be sure if it’ll wind up on a beach somewhere, or adrift in the middle of the Pacific. It’s all a part of the adventure of existing.
So when I’m asked, “What is your 10 year plan?” I can happily say, with excitement buzzing around my body: “I have no idea!”
I may not know where I’m headed, but I do have goals for my journey:
- Bite off more than I can chew, and chew like mad.
- Do things I never thought I’d do.
- Don’t be a jerk to myself.
- Don’t be ashamed of what I create.
- Never let fear get in the way.
- Learn to be present.
- Live with less than I think I need.
- Second-guess convention.
- Never stagnate.
- Buy new underwear.
As I make my way down the river, bumping into obstacles, flying over waterfalls and charging through hair-raising rapids, I don’t need to worry about where I’m going to end up because, regardless of whether or not I have a 10 year plan, we all end up in the same place: buried 6 feet below. So I’ll surrender to the river, and the river will take me on one great adventure. After all, the journey is the destination.
Do you enjoy having goals, or do you drift along life’s current?