It’s five years since I wrote a five-year plan

me in 2012 me in 2017.jpg

Today I am feeling like this meme; just replace 2016 with 2012.

I have another blog, which I’ve kept up for ten years now. At this point it functions more as a private journal than a public site. The other day, I was searching for something there, and I got caught up reading old posts that I had long ago forgotten. I stopped short at one that I wrote just over five years ago. It was my five year plan. 

Someone like me, who believes in all manner of signs and superstitions, would call that timing more than a coincidence. I’ve had a number of setbacks and crises this year, and seeing a list of things I wanted five years ago, and then went out and in large measure got, gave me a moment of much-needed relief.

Apparently I wrote the list because I was feeling depressed about things I wanted but had little to no control over, so I wrote down everything that I could take concrete steps to achieve instead. It’s uncanny that I am in the exact same situation right now – agonizing over things that can’t be helped, and trying to figure out a way forward to contentment. I’m not even sure what I would put on a five year list now – except maybe to have more certainty in my life.

Below is a shortened version of the list, along with my present-day comments in italics after each bullet point. I know it’s self-indulgent of me to post it – if your eyes glaze over and you can’t get through it, I will be neither surprised nor offended. 

But one thing I would love is if you have any wise words that you tell yourself (or that others have told you) when you’re in tricky moments like the one I’m in now, could you please share them in the comments? I would be so appreciative…

  •  learn french fluently, preferably through immersion in west africa. [What is amazing to me is that at the time I wrote this, it was still a pipe dream. I didn’t take any steps whatsoever to make it happen until a full year later. And now I’m proficient though not fluent in French, after a year in Senegal and 8 months in France.]
  • spend at least 3 weeks in senegal, mali and/or burkina faso. [13 months in Senegal, an hour on the tarmac in Bamako en route to Ethiopia, and a week in Burkina Faso = hit this one out of the ball park.]
  • spend time in a country house with some sort of body of water nearby. [I’m pretty sure I did this at least a few times over the past five years, if you interpret “country,” ”body of water,” and “nearby” rather loosely.]
  • get a job focused on making documentaries in some form or fashion. [Yup. And now I’m starting to consider giving it all up for something else.]
  • pay off more than half my student debt and see my net worth go from in the red to in the black. [Never thought it would happen but it did. Five years ago I had no emergency fund, barely any retirement savings, and a student loan balance that gave me panic attacks. Today I’m solidly in the black and apart from being inconsistently employed I have my financial house in fairly good order. It feels miraculous.]
  • start exercising (this may actually take a full 5 years to implement). [I started running just a few months after I wrote this. Every so often I go through 1-2 months of stagnancy but so far I’ve always picked it back up again.]
  • own every item of furniture that is needed to furnish whatever place i am in (i’m currently missing a real chest of drawers – they’re plastic; a real bed – it’s an inflatable mattress; a real desk chair, and a real desk come to think of it.) [Well, I have failed utterly on this one – I sold all my furniture before leaving New York. But thankfully, while I have moments of pining for stuff, most of the time I’m cool with being momentarily light on possessions.]
  • see my niece at least every few months. [I now have two nieces and a nephew who are all much too far away, but I Skype with them way more than every few months.]
  • go back to new orleans and explore the zydeco places outside of town, the bayou, and the plantations around there. [Still on the list.]
  • have an exit strategy for leaving new york and heading somewhere more my speed. [Had an exit strategy, and followed it. Only to be heading back soon, very likely. At least I’ve thought about how to make it more sustainable this time around.]
  • date at least one reasonable person. [Questionable. But let’s just call this one done to the bare minimum.]
  • don’t give up blogging/writing. [Obviously have not.] 
  • finish the damn momumentary. [Erm… not yet. But I worked on it recently! (This is a personal documentary project with no deadline so I have picked it up and put it down a lot over the years.)]
  • become okay with cockroaches, blood draws / IVs, and puking. [These used to be my three big phobias. Years ago, I did a bunch of exposure therapy to try to overcome them, with varying results. I made the most progress with blood tests. I’m actually going for one tomorrow and I’m more worried about getting up on time than about the procedure itself. I can’t say I’ve come to peace with cockroaches or puking yet.]
  • learn to experience both physical and mental discomfort without anxiety, or at least with more courage. [The biggest item on the list, and unfortunately it feels a bit like a one step forward two steps back situation. But what I can say is that I’ve spent the past five years – and especially the last four months – doing lots of work to improve my coping skills.] 

All in all, not a bad showing. I didn’t accomplish everything, but I did make substantial progress on the things that meant the most to me at that time.

Taking stock of where I am now compared to where I was then makes me wonder whether the reason I’m so unclear at the moment is because so many of my long-held dreams seem done, done enough, or not that important anymore. I guess I’m ready for new dreams that haven’t yet fully materialized. If I can only shape another five-year plan – or even just a five-month plan – before leaving France, I’ll be satisfied.

[Photo pairing via Libby Hill.]

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4 thoughts on “It’s five years since I wrote a five-year plan

  1. It’s only after you’re out of the woods you’ll look back and realize you followed a path you couldn’t see at the time. It might zig and zag but a path nevertheless. Take deep breaths and try to enjoy the journey!

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