Hurray! Kerri’s plans have changed somewhat!
In June of 1990, I had a ten-year plan: at 18, graduate and take a year off to travel; at 19, do one year of college and then go to university; at 22 while at university, meet the man of my dreams, and at 24 marry him; at 26, have baby number one (preferably a girl); and at 28, have baby number two (preferably a boy). With all the “structural” stuff out of the way, I would then begin my amazing career as an award winning broadcast journalist.
Nice, neat, and simple: it was a plan based on the knowledge that only an 18 year old can have: by the time you’re 30, you’re OLD. It was also a plan shaped by a child of the 70’s, when people married young, and had their children while they were still often children themselves. My friend Theresa laughed at me when I told her my plan in the cafeteria one day, and (rightly) informed me that life doesn’t usually work out that precisely.
I knew some adjustments might be necessary when the plan went awry almost immediately. Falling in love with someone while travelling was not part of the ten-year plan, neither was having my heart broken—as only it can be with first love—cutting my trip short. While college and university happened on track, journalism didn’t. Instead, I was drawn to history and political science, eventually earning my BA. I also came out of university without a boyfriend/live-in-partner/or husband—definitely not part of the ten-year plan.
And while journalism was a “real” career choice, with my BA I had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up. To make matters worse, at the time of my graduation, BC was in the depths of a recession and even with my newly minted degree, I couldn’t get a job at Starbucks. Eventually, I offered to work at an ad agency for free just to get some job experience. They didn’t feel comfortable with that arrangement, so they offered me the whopping salary of $6/hour, and I was happy for it. Although I’d never thought about salary as a part of my ten-year plan, I was pretty sure I didn’t envision making less after university than I did working at Kmart during high school.
As the years progressed I worked hard to create opportunities that would lead to an interesting and successful career; some of the jobs along the way worked out well, others were disastrous, but each one taught me insight about who I was and who I wanted to be. One day, when I was feeling particularly confused about what to do with my life, I asked my dad how he knew that his chosen profession was for him. He looked me square in the eye and said it wasn’t, but it worked for him and it worked for our family. He then went on to tell me that very few people are lucky enough to really know what they want to do in life, and all we can do is keep trying different things until we find something that works, and not be afraid of change.
It was the best thing he could have told me, and one of the greatest gifts of knowledge I’ve received, because it allowed me to accept that I didn’t always have to have the answers. Thankfully, my ten-year plan went completely to pot. Goals in life are important, but being adaptable and unafraid to capitalize on opportunity will get you further, and keep you happier, than trying to create an idealized version of what you think your life should be. By following a path I didn’t know existed, I’ve created a life that I didn’t know was possible when I was 18 and had all the answers.
Why am I giving you the Cliff’s Notes version of my life story? Because this weekend it’s my 20th high school reunion. It’s impossible not to reflect when faced with a milestone, comparing where you are with where you thought you’d be. I’ve maneuvered through good and bad decisions, moves, career changes, boyfriends, and breakups—all the curveballs that life can throw at you. The one thing I can say for certain that I’ve figured out in the 20 years since high school: I definitely look better with straight hair.
– post by Kerri