Plan A

This week's This American Life is called Plan B and it starts with Ira Glass talking about how almost all of us are living in our Plan B, what we did when what we originally meant to do didn't work.

I'm not sure, but I think I'm more or less living in my Plan A.  I mean, if you had asked me in high school or college what I wanted to be, I might have said an astronaut, or a writer, or a lawyer, but I never made more than a half-assed attempt at any of them.* I got as far as writing away for law school catalogs, but as soon as I read in them about the existence of JD/MPP programs, and thus the existence of such a thing as public policy school, it was clear that was a much better fit.  And I'm married to someone I met when I was 18.

I'm very aware of how lucky I've been, and I'm grateful.  But I also think I might need a new goal, a new Ithaka to look for.  I think maybe I'll pull my copy of Barbara Sher's wonderful book Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want  (now in its 30th year in print) from the shelves and see what inspires me. 

*I went to space Camp, worked on the less serious of the two college papers for a couple of semesters, and took the LSATs.

8 Responses to “Plan A”

  1. urbanartiste Says:

    I recently dug out an old high school scrapbook and read a cast description of myself that is pretty on the mark with what I am doing today. Aside from going to a different college than planned, I am living my Plan A by working in the arts. If there is something above Plan A, like dreams, I am sort of living that, too. Full-time tenure college faculty is my goal, but I think adjunct teaching can fill the role of Plan A.

  2. amy Says:

    There was supposed to be a plan?

  3. dave.s. Says:

    For me, learning to want what I’ve gotten has been key. And realizing that I was, in fact, playing to my strengths. My mother had a nice line, ‘put down your bucket where you are’ – the story being that a becalmed ship was desperate out of fresh water, passing ship told them they were in the miles of fresh water which push out into the ocean at the mouth of the Amazon. True story? Who knows – but it’s a nice story.

  4. jim Says:

    I think I’m on Plan D by now, if we’re keeping count. But I agree with Amy. I don’t think I ever had a plan. When we needed to make a decision, we did. One’s coming up. Will we carry on the way we’ve been for the last five years or so, or will we strike out in a new direction? If we strike out in a new direction, will Ira Glass say we’ve moved on to Plan E?

  5. jen Says:

    Does avoidance count as a plan? My only goal as a young woman was to not end up like my mother, a.k.a. chronically depressed suburban housewife-who-wanted-other-things. That’s been pretty easy to avoid! And so by dint of Extremely Low Expectations I could be interpreted as living my Plan A.
    Drew Faust, current president of Harvard, said in a NYTimes article in 2007 that her life has always surprised her — that she had been raised to be a planter’s wife, and once she rejected that role everything else has been a serendipitous surprise. I can very much relate to that.
    In a sense it could make a person angry, this idea that a young woman would not be considered worthy of plans beyond who she marries. (This was not true of everyone growing up in the 70s and 80s, but was the case in my family.)
    On the other hand the lack of expectations leaves you with a wonderful freedom. You pursue something until it no longer interests you. Changing pursuits, changing lines of work, taking a different path … if you were too focused on a Plan you might view it as a detour, and thus a bad thing. Without a Plan it’s just the next step. “I’ve lived my life one step at a time,” is how Gilpin phrases it. When I think about my life, how for example I mommy-tracked myself for 5 years and am very happy with where it took me, I believe I was only able to do this because I was totally open to all possibilities. Nothing had been elevated to Plan A.
    Here’s the whole interview with Gilpin:

  6. Kai Jones Says:

    I know people who have a passion, who’ve had it as long as they remember, and if they weren’t pursuing it, they’d be miserable. But I know a lot more people like me, who just want a reasonably good job, one that doesn’t make you sick when you get home from work, and that gives you enough money for a nice life. Our energies go into other things: social life, hobbies, children, volunteering.
    Privileging or valorizing the passionate is a mistake; the intensity or drama people feel or pursue their dream with is unrelated to its value, either to them or to the rest of us.

  7. bj Says:

    I think idolizing the passionate is a mistake, but I think that the passionate bring a lot to the world, and do not think their passion, or the dreams that they bring to fruition are unrelated to value (to us as well as them).
    The Drew Faust story is fascinating — “the accidental greatness.” I admire that, too. But I don’t want to disparage the single minded focus that brings us Terrence Tao, either. I also admire people who are comfortable in their own skin and life without having achieved greatness of any kind (being happy is its own success). We need all those kinds of people.

  8. jen Says:

    So Elizabeth, what are you considering next? Are you talking career change? Or pace/lifestyle change? Or having another kid? ;-)

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