I think people get frustrated when they don’t think I have enough drive to “fulfill my potential,” when I don’t have the kind of plan they think I should have for moving forward with my life.
It was strongly implied in a conversation this evening that I am – or am about to be – a 32-year-old has been prodigy who has nice talk but hasn’t really shown that she can do anything significant. And I get asked, what’s my plan, how have I determined that I’m going to lay out the next 5 to 10 years of my life to achieve my goals?
I don’t really have plans like that anymore – not since my early 20s when I discovered that having plans didn’t have all that much to do with what actually occurred in my life, and that if I was going to be content with the reality of where I was I needed to stop trying to compare it to a plan I’d developed when I was a teenager that became less relevant every year to my real life. It wasn’t a farfetched plan, either, like being a rock star: it was a plan to graduate, be married, have kids, have a certain career, and all by certain times. If I hadn’t let most of that plan go, I’d still be miserably bewailing my overall failure to achieve anything I’d set out to do. Anything that was in that plan that has even a remote relationship to my present life happened in quite a different way and time from any of my planning; and what hasn’t happened … well the fact that I’m still partly holding onto those pieces as I originally envisioned them isn’t doing me any emotional or psychological favors.
So I don’t have these long-term ambitions with time deadlines, in 5 years I want to be here, in 10 years there. Besides being married and with kids (the parts of my original plan I’m still grasping at), I honestly don’t know. Grad school sounds interesting and fun for the next couple of years, albeit expensive and possibly something I can’t afford, especially in the current credit market. The other thing that I’m really passionate about – this deeply sustainable communal living thing – depends as much on finding a whole bunch of other people at the right time as it does on me wanting it or having some plan about how it might work; so my control over that outcome is severely limited.
Or maybe I’m just being lazy, and if I were more driven and directed I’d be out there pounding the pavement until I found those people. Or I’d be making myself a nuisance hanging out at the Greenhaus until I figured out how to join them. And visiting every Christian community I could find and reading every book about it until I had absorbed everything I could.
Y’know what? I just realized that I never dropped that plan. Everything I’ve done in my adult life has still been about trying to get there, and trying to do the course corrections around life’s twists and turns to make it happen. I did finish school, and in a design discipline (although not the B.Arch. I’d planned), and I did start my own design business (although not the firm I’d originally envisioned). I do teach and mentor, and I am focusing a significant part of my life on serving my community (or trying to, anyway). My problem? There’s only that one thing left to start that I haven’t started on yet, and I don’t know how to begin to get there, and nothing I’ve tried has seemed to point me in the right direction, and I don’t even know what the options are for what to do next … and all the things I’m trying to pursue right now feel like placeholders, because I know that what I really want – the first thing that comes to my mind every time someone asks me – is to have the community of my partner in a sustainable life and the children that we work to raise to make a better world.
That’s always been the core of my whole plan, the thing I wanted and fantasized about more than anything else, and the most important contribution I ever thought I’d make to building the world and building the Kingdom. And I have no idea what to do about that.