I have always been jealous of people who have a life plan. They have it all set out:
I will go to this school, get this degree, have this occupation, live in this state, get married at this age, have a baby at this next age….
I have NEVER had the ability to look five minutes ahead in my life, much less plan for years and years ahead. I got my law degree eleven years ago. I had no idea what I was going to do with the degree my last year of school. Other classmates were interviewing, running around hysterically looking for references, networking at all the events. I did nothing. I happened to get a call from a friend of mine who worked at a local law firm as a secretary. It was April or May, close to graduation, and I told her things were good but no job prospects yet. She got me an interview at her firm and two weeks letter, I got an offer.
I have thought about this lately because a young law student asked me where I see myself in five years. Are you kidding? I have no fricken’ idea! I may be in my same job, I may be in my same house, I may have my same bicycle or I may be traveling to Africa to scout out a farm to which we could move (that is a dream and a whole other blog entry)….
I fear I may be too whimsical or not able to sit still long enough to figure out a plan. But I really don’t think that is the case. I think I simply enjoy living without self-imposed necessities. “Necessities” because it is not that I don’t have goals for myself. I want to do more community service, I want to travel with Maria and Mario, I want to write more. But I don’t want to impose on myself that I must make partner at a firm by 2015 or that I must buy a new car by 2016 or that I must publish an article by next year.
A lot of lawyers I know feel they cannot leave the law profession because that is not what they had planned and they would be failures. Others feel they have to stay in that big house that costs way too much each month because that is what they had planned for themselves, and what would friends think if they moved into that little home out of the burbs?
I am free of those fears, for the most part (of course, I would be remiss if I did not admit that there are times when I have concerns about what people are thinking when they walk in my home and it only takes 2 seconds to hit every room in it) but overall, I am comfortable with who I am. I think that comfortableness stems, in part, from my refusal to structure a life plan for myself. If I have to move from my little Grandview home into some apartment near a dump because I lose my job, so be it. We will survive. If my car breaks down and we have to take the bus or walk, so be it. We will get some exercise. If I move into a different profession, so be it. Who is really going to care?
I don’t want to ever feel that my life has to be lived based on some external constraint. I don’t want to work at a dead-end job that I despise to buy the most stylish shoes or stay in the most expensive home. It is interesting with kids because they put a slight kink in that desire. To some extent, you have to work, and maybe in a job that is not ideal, in order to be able to buy the diapers, the milk, the bottles. But, you don’t have to work in order to buy Gap clothing or the bedroom tv or the nicest bike.
I see people reasoning their continued employment in a hated job with just that: I have to do it to pay the bills, take care of the kids. Indeed, I found myself doing it at times. But, I try to stop myself soon after I begin down that path because in the end, I know I would be miserable. And what good will I be to the kids at that point? They would much rather have a stable, happy mother than have three extra barbie dolls (at least I think so!).
I told the student that I have no idea where I see myself in 5 years except that I hope to have two creative, loving children at my side and a hubby who still makes me laugh and my family and a good pair of running shoes. She seemed relieved at the answer, and we spent the next half hour just talking about our kids, our love of running, and good movies.