By Alison Adams
Looking through old Facebook pictures, I was struck by this one of me flying through the air on the new-at-the-time zip line at the resort where I used to work five years ago. This image of a 23-year-old, fresh-faced adult captures more than a moment; it reminds me of the friendships I have built, the places I have seen and the jobs I have held since this picture was taken.
At 23, I was supposed to have it all figured out — or at least the next five years.
During college, my professors always asked about my “five-year plan.” In most of the interviews I had during my senior year, it was a standard question.
I thought having a five-year plan was the be-all and end-all of being grown up. Of course I understood that it would probably not play out exactly as I expected, but the general gist would take shape as I imagined. At that time, my plan was to work for two years at any ski resort that would give me my first job, then move on to another ski resort for two more years, and hopefully by then I would figure out what it is that I truly wanted from a career and where I wanted to live. Not a traditional plan by any means, but still, such a blueprint was expected.
“Set some goals. And then be flexible. Instead of getting hung up on the details of what is or is not going right at any given moment, just keep moving forward.”
The choice to follow this uncommon path was easy for me to make, probably because I took to heart advice to travel and see the world while I was young. It took a leap of faith to move across the country to a state where I did not know a soul, but I slowly developed friendships and my resume, which in turn made that place home.
Still, almost seven years later, I can tell you that my “plan” did not go as planned. And I can't help but wonder, What was the point of that question?
I had many successes and failures, opportunities and rejections, over the past seven years that weren’t part of my plan. When the opportunity to travel New Zealand for a year presented itself, I did not expect to bounce from town to town unsuccessfully seeking a job for over a month as funds dwindled, but I learned what I could and could not live without. Upon my return to the States, I was interviewed and rejected for four jobs, including my dream position with a former employer, which was disheartening to say the least. However, I returned to a part-time job where an acquaintance turned into a friend, and two years later she helped me get my current job working on a yacht.
I recently read a quote originally published in a wilderness survival book by Laurence Gonzales that resonates: “The plan, a memory of the future, tries on reality to see if it fits.”
If I had stuck to my “original” plan right after college, I would have never built the lasting relationships that I now have and would be in a completely different situation, for better or for worse. I suppose that I needed every single one of those challenges to get to where I am right now.
So go ahead, make a plan (appease those professors and potential employers). Set some goals. And then be flexible. Instead of getting hung up on the details of what is or is not going right at any given moment, just keep moving forward.
Reality is so much better, detours and all.
Alison Adams is a stewardess on a yacht that cruises through the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, but may be doing something completely different in six months, let alone the next five years.