The IDK blog.
By Tyler Parsons
Do you remember that question always brought up in romantic comedies? It would usually appear when a young man was picking up a young girl for their first date. Meeting her father, he would ask the young man, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Then it would appear again later on, around high school graduation. Toward the end of college it became a 10-year question. Now, pushing 30, it seems like it’s become, “How are you setting yourself up for retirement?” or “How does your portfolio look?” I just give the Ben Stiller answer. “Strong…to quite strong.”
Should I have an investment portfolio? Yeah, it should probably be high on the list. Especially since Social Security won’t be around to collect when I am old (at least that’s what Ryan said on that episode of The OC once). So, as I knock on the door of 30, this is the dilemma that I face Every. Damn. Day. Do I create a five or 10-year plan, or do I stick to my current plan of changing my mind once a month about where I want to live and what I want to do?
The reason I crave being unsettled is because I was once four weeks away from being the ultimate version of settled. I was engaged, working a 9-5 job with good benefits and room for advancement and thinking of kids and a house in the hills. All I was missing was the white picket fence. I’m not going to sit here and lie that I made the decision to give this all up on my own because of some epiphany I had while listening to The Cure–my life isn’t a show on the WB. (Is that still a channel? It’s been awhile since I had cable.)
I had my doubts, that’s for sure, but I probably would never have had the courage to end it without a little push (shove) in the back. But why it ended isn’t important. It did end, and at 26 I was given a new life path and the freedom to create my own plan. Up to that point, I was on “The Plan”-plan that I thought I was supposed to be on. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do? Graduate, get a job, get married, have a family and maybe go to Florida on your holiday?
Now, I was given the option that many people say they want but are too afraid to grasp. I was given the option to start from scratch. But even quitting my job and moving to Hong Kong to teach English, I cannot shake the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” or “How are you setting yourself up for the next 10 years.” Lately, this has me thinking. Much like how working for a company for 30 years and retiring is not a “thing” anymore, neither is the five or 10-year plan.
This is the age of the nine-month plan. It’s the perfect amount of time. I mean, most things that are important in life are nine months, right? Pregnancies, school years, the length from the NFL Draft to the Super Bowl. Think of where you were nine months ago and how much has changed. Did you prepare for any of it? Did you have a plan and life said “Nice plan, here are some unexpected twists to deal with”?
When you plan for five or 10 or 20 years, you try so hard to stick with that plan that when things don’t work out you become stressed or upset. You planned to work at a job for two years, but you have a new boss and you two don’t get along. You are unhappy, but your plan was to work there for two years and build your resume for the next two-year plan at some other job. So you don’t quit. Or, maybe you moved to a new city for work and you’re unhappy, but it’s part of the plan so you stick it out.
You know what? As I write this, I realize this isn’t about a nine-month plan at all, but rather about forgetting your plans and doing what you want in this short life. Yeah, that’s it. I can’t tell you how many people I have heard say they hate their jobs or the place they live, but they still stick with it. Or, they want to travel, but their goal and plan is to become manager by the time they’re 30. They give up their travel “plans” and the life they dream about in hopes they get promoted, make more money and maybe travel later in life.
So, wait. Actually, maybe this isn’t an article about forgetting your plans, but rather a piece about making sure your plans are exactly what you want. Is having a home and a good career title more important than freedom to travel or write your novel? Is working for someone else and making more money better than the freedom of starting your own business? Does having another child mean more than moving into a nicer house? These are all sacrifices we have to make, or think about, when making life decisions.
So actually, maybe this blog is about how we make sacrifices to chase the things we really think we want. I sacrifice seeing my family and watching 49ers games with my friends (it seriously stings) in order to live abroad. I don’t seek jobs that make tons of money and become a corporate workaholic for the freedom to travel and make a difference in the lives of my students (or at least spoil them).
In all honesty, I am terrified to move from Hong Kong back to the States. Mainly because I feel that if I move to the States I will have to be there forever. Isn’t that how it goes? I have to get a job, work hard for “the man,” try to impress my boss, save to buy a house, buy health insurance, invest in retirement and save up all my vacation days to hopefully visit one or two countries a year.
Walls. Closing. In. But maybe it’s time that I do move back, take that job that would further my career and help me gain more knowledge in the marketing field so that one day I can run my own successful company. I would have to sacrifice the life I have now. This crazy life where I don’t even know where I’m going to live next month, let alone six months from now. Where I can spend Easter in Thailand, summer in Prague and Christmas in South Africa.
So, maybe this article isn’t about planning. Or nine-month plans. Or sacrifices. Maybe it was just a way for me to convince myself of something I already know deep down I should do next with my life. Maybe this was all just to calm my inner voice that gets rowdy and restless. And maybe I was hoping–on some level–that most of you feel the same way about your lives and where you are headed next.