Life is full of turns, twists, and curves. I recently listened to one of my favorite podcasts, This American Life, they did a show on Plan B. They explored the idea of what we thought we were going to do and what we actually did; plan B, or C, or D. It gave me a lot to think about. In fact, I started to mentally go through my alphabet of plans trying to understand how I ended up here; in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam teaching English, writing, doing various computer consulting, and practicing photography.
When I was a young girl, my plan was to be the Abominable Snowman, you know the one from the classic Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer special. My plan B was to be a grocery store check out clerk. As I entered my teen years my plan was to become an interior designer and live in a NYC penthouse.
Hmmm – maybe I’m starting too far back. Sure, as children we all had some crazy plans I suppose. However I think the real interesting plans lie in our adult life. The exuberant plans, the dashed plans, the changes, the realization that you never achieved plan A, and the acceptance of plan G in it’s place. Life is a wild ride and if you can be open to change then you never know what plan you will end up on. Here’s a rundown of my adult plans to the best of my memory!
Plan A: Go to college, get an accounting degree, become a CPA. Eventually get married in my late 20’s, have kids in my 30’s, and own a house; white picket fence, happily ever after.
Achieved? Ummm, partially…I did graduate in Accounting. No CPA though…the rest…well, read on.
Plan B: Take my recent MBA and minimal computer experience gained working as an Accountant and move to Minneapolis to become a computer consultant. Serious relationship getting more serious and moving towards marriage, kids, and house (see plan A).
Achieved? From a work standpoint that was all achieved, but the relationship fell through after a long ride of 6 ½ years sending me into a bit of a spiral of “what now?”
Plan C: I made a promise to myself that I would only work at companies where I was really interested in what they did/produced. I wanted to enjoyed my single status and make up for my lost 20’s singledome. The marriage/kids/house goal was starting to fade. I honestly just didn’t think about it any longer. At that point my social goals were to try everything that I had missed out in while being in a relationship. You can read into that whatever you want…basically my goal was to have fun.
Achieved? Yes! I left consulting and started working for retailers in Information Technology taking a job at Best Buy. I bought a new tv and a first generation tivo. On the social front this is when I came out of my shell and started my life of clubbing, hanging out with gay men, and traveling around the US. I escaped Minneapolis in the winter frequently to go to Vegas baby!
Leave my Midwestern roots and start to explore the world. I’ve always had an unexplainable draw to newness and change. I knew that I wanted to remain in Information Technology, not because I loved it, but because it was a lucrative career. I still had the same goal to work for a company which I liked what they did. Finally, my social goals hadn’t really changed – have fun.
Achieved? Yes! I moved to San Francisco and took a job at another large retailer and loved what they sold. I found that as I climbed the IT ladder, it became less and less enjoyable for me and more of a management task. However, this is the plan where I finally got a passport and left the country for the first time. In addition, I established a really fun life for myself in San Francisco, including a sporty one as I not only kept on clubbing, but I also was constantly training for marathons.
The next plan wasn’t really planned out by me, it actually fell into my lap and I followed it and adopted it as my plan. On the career front the plan that was ‘given’ to me was to climb the corporate ladder so I moved to NYC to take a job in the same field at another retailer. As a side note – in some weird way I was kind of achieving that childhood plan of becoming a grocery store checkout clerk as my new job was responsible for POS (point-of-sale) systems. Social plan hadn’t really changed except that I needed to build a new network of friends in NYC, easily achieved for a social person like myself. However by this time I was 34 years old and the idea of marriage still wasn’t that terribly appealing to me and kids and home were becoming even less and less appealing.
Achieved? Sort of. I arrived in NY and immediately went – “holy crap…what have I done?” Work was all consuming and I wondered why I had moved across the country to do something I wasn’t nuts about. I was starting to resent IT.
Plan F: Finally confront what I have knew for the last 6 years, I don’t really like working in Information Technology. I don’t like climbing the ladder. I don’t want to have kids. Marriage – I can take it or leave it, but it certainly wasn’t a goal. This was the time in my life I realized I couldn’t do this for the rest of my life. I was tired of being scared of finances and social pressures. I guess my plan was to have a mid-life career crises at 36 years old.
Achieved? Yes! My life took a drastic change here at F…I quit corporate America and took off to see the world for 1 year. I consider this the “Oh shit, I’m 35 years old and I don’t like what I do” phase of my life. Still no relationship, but I was traveling around the world…who cared about a relationship?!
One year turned into 1 ½ years of travel. My plan now was to try to not really make any more plans. I wasn’t ready to go back to a corporate job, so I explored the idea of living abroad and teaching.
Achieved: Well, I’m sitting here writing this from Vietnam…nuff said.
Plan H, I, J, K, L: Yes, I think I’ve had about 5 plans here while in Ho Chi Minh City, they change daily now. Maybe that just means that I’m in a state of flux. Hopefully I will figure it out soon.
What about you? What was your plan A and plan B….and plan H?! Life is a wonderful journey, so share it!