When I was 19 I had to write a life plan for Uni, to prepare for the exercise we had to write a draft plan in our notebook that we would never show to anyone. The idea was that we would work this life plan up into a career plan that we would eventually hand in. The Lecturer who took us through this exercise was fanatical about planning; she was a former life coach who looked spookily like Theresa May. She instructed us to always have weekly, monthly, yearly, five-yearly and ten yearly plans and she told us that once we had these plans our lives would become significantly easier and that we’d never have to make a spur of the moment decision again. “When it comes to choosing between a night out and your essay, you’ll simply have to glance at your ten-year plan and the choice will be made.” I’m guessing she was counting on us putting “Be successful graduates” on our ten-year plan and not “Have loads of hilarious anecdotes of drunken behaviour from Uni.”
|At the time I was pretty sure my fortune would be made in the |
sock monkey industry
A few months back I found my unedited plans from that lecture and let's just say they bore no resemblance to the career plan that I handed in. The yearly one was filled with subtly vague goals like “Don’t fail second year.” I liked the ten-year plan most because it contained such concrete goals as “Start drinking herbal tea” and “Work out how to pull off trouser based outfits.” I wrote a blog post poking fun at my former 19-year-old self but that wasn’t really fair because if I’m honest I’m not that much better now. If I try to imagine myself ten years in the future, I could tell you what sort of armchair I would like and that I’d like to base my wardrobe on Grace Kelly in the casual scenes from High Society but in terms of concrete goals like to be showing in X gallery or working at Y place I’ve no clue.
|I actually do drink herbal tea now. |
All my dreams are coming true.
If I sit down and try to imagine my future, all I can really see is a long succession of massive skirts. It’s not quite as superficial as it sounds, when I was 19 my life goals involved herbal tea and formal trousers, they weren’t the most essential aspects just the only aspects that I could put into a sentence about long-term goals. To understand what I was trying to articulate you have to understand what these things symbolised for me, at 19 herbal tea meant mint tea, which I couldn’t stand the taste of, it seemed awfully sophisticated and grown-up. If a person was to drink herbal tea regularly, they would need to buy it regularly, so the would presumably be on top of their grocery shopping. I imagined my future self calmly drinking herbal tea in a workday, so I would be doing my work in a structured way - with time for a break – not doing everything in a mad scramble at the last minute. Formal trousers would imply I’d be doing the sort of thing that was formal, to important to wear jeans, also I would need to be together enough to wash and iron them, another sign of how responsible and grown up I’d be. Basically, I was picturing a life that wasn’t ruled by the overwhelming chaos that shaped my life at that time.
|I don't know where I'm going but I hope there will be cake|
I was hoping that 29-year old me would know what they were doing and that they would be able to fill in the blanks in my life plan, providing answers to nagging questions like “How are you going to make money?” and “Where will you live?” I started to think about this as I sat down to drink a cup of mint tea as I waited for my screen to expose and I had this feeling of understanding like “Yes this is what I wanted to happen.” That’s probably why I was able to unpick the life goals that I was unable to articulate at the time, because by and large that’s the life I’m living now or at least I’m closer to the life I’m living now than the life I was living then and maybe if I find myself sitting in an armchair wearing huge skirts I’ll be better able to express the significance of those talismans too.
When I think about what I’m going to do next I generally think “This, but on a better and bigger scale” and when I plan I find it hard to think beyond what I’m doing now and what I’m going to do immediately after that. I try to think less about where I’m going and more about where I am. I don’t always know where I’m going, but I generally believe I will like wherever I end up.