In the past few weeks, I've had an alarming number of people ask me "what's your five year plan?"
Maybe it's because in five years, I'll be in my thirties, or maybe it's because I'm at a point where my career should go from "paying my dues" to taking large strides forward. It could also be because I'm at the age when marriage and babies are a regular occurrence, and women find themselves making a big choice between becoming career or family oriented (or both!).
Regardless of the reason, I always give the same answer: I don't have a five year plan.
It's not like I don't have goals. I absolutely want to get married and have kids, I have certain thoughts on my career (though they're still in flux). I have travel dreams, thoughts about real estate and visions of my life in 10, 20 and 30 years. I certainly have plans for the next 6 months.
I'm obsessively organized. My spreadsheets have spreadsheets... my boyfriend and I share a google calendar so that I can keep him up to date on social engagements and I get a serious thrill from logistics, planning and preparing for any eventuality.
So why don't I have a five year plan?
I'm concerned that if I pigeonhole myself into an expectation for my life, I will miss opportunities in order to stick to it.
It's really that simple, do I want to be a wife and mom at a young age? Absolutely! But I'm not going to sacrifice my career at 26 to do that when I'm still working on figuring out my own way. At the same time, I don't want to push off kids until "the time is right", just because my plan requires financial security.
Plans are wonderful. but a five year plan is unrealistic. Life changes so quickly, new opportunities and new hardships are only a day away, and you need to be flexible enough to roll with the punches. If next week I need to move across the world, or I have an opportunity to work at my dream job for next to no money, or someone close to me gets sick and I need to be on hand, the plan will change.
Finally, and this is the big one, I believe that trying to stick to a long term plan will breed disappointment. Life is just not going to work out the way you think it will. It might be better, it might be worse, but the far more likely outcome is that it will just be completely different from what you thought, a life you didn't even consider.
If you're fixated on the plan, you may not appreciate your different life for all the wonderful things it has brought you.
I believe in dreaming big, I believe that you should take chances and I believe that sometimes you need to let opportunities pass you by.
Have goals, and by all means make short term plans. Work hard, play hard, love hard and laugh hard.
The only five year plan you need is to embrace your life to the fullest each day.