I hadn’t heard that question much since I started teaching three years ago. Back then, I could answer pretty confidently.
Fast forward about two years into my teaching career. This summer, I took five post-its and laid out my new five-year plan. I put it on the wall, right in front of my work-space. It included professional goals and personal goals.
Just six months later, last weekend, I took down those post-its. It honestly takes me 5 to 10 minutes if I were to explain all the possibilities. This time next year, I’ll be applying to several different jobs, both in and out of the classroom, and several different Ph.D. programs. I have no idea what comes next, where I’ll be, or what I’ll be doing.
It’s moderately terrifying. It’s not just having a plan and a back-up plan. It’s kind of like that scene in the last Avengers when *SPOILERS* Dr. Strange is floating around, overwhelmed with all the possible outcomes for the fight against Thanos. There are so many different possibilities–none of which I favor over the other. This cross-roads felt so much more overwhelming
As a teacher, I know that from an early age, we are taught to have goals. By high school, we are encouraged to have careers picked. As adults, people constantly ask us when a child, marriage, or the next step of your life is coming up. We are always asked to think ahead. Last night was the first time I managed to feel okay about the predicament I’m in. I managed to give myself three reasons why this was totally okay.
- So much less stress. I no longer have to worry about larger decisions in some “grand scheme” of things. There’s no wondering “but will x affect y and change my five-year plan?” There’s no anxiety with actions or reactions because there is no plan to worry about having to re-write.
- More productivity. In the last 24 hours, I’ve found myself way more focused on my weekly/daily to-do list at work and at home than I have in recent weeks. Before, I’d kind of stop and get side-tracked, going down a rabbit hole of research about option A or option G. Now, I’m letting it go because I realize there’s really no need to know everything about one option or another as I don’t need to plan it all out.
- Truly enjoying time with my friends. This was a big one. Catching up with friends a month or two ago started with them asking how I’m doing, eventually asking about plans for the future. It’d either send me into a rant or force me to awkwardly change subjects while my brain persisted on thinking about that five-year-plan the rest of the day.