Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Five-Year Plan

 "Oh, I have a five-year plan," my friend Rachel said. It was a few years ago, and we were probably making some of our patented Bad Life Decisions™(of which I will spare you the details, but rest assured most of them involved the intersection of men and alcohol in a spectacular way). The topic of life plans came up, and as we slurrily discussed them, it dawned on me that planning was not my strong suit.

I had vague images in mind when I thought about my future: I'd like a subscription to The New Yorker, please, and enough free time to read every issue cover to cover. I'd like a house full of plants and books, and a partner and some kids to share it with. I'd like to be able to visit my work on a bookstore shelf, and I'd to eat food that makes me feel amazing. But I was lacking in the specifics: did I want that house to be in Toronto, where I live now? Or some yet-to-be-determined smaller town, preferably one with a decent arts scene and only a small drug problem? Did I want to live in a condo, a low-rise, or a house? Did I want to pursue my passion for non-profits and produce a how-to for co-op housing, or write the Great North American Novel? Did I want to experiment with vegan food, or get really into ribs and kombucha as part of the paleo diet? Things were fuzzy.

A few years ago, I set up a Google Doc called "Five-year plan." I added to it every now and then, after a brain session with myself, and thought I had a decent overview of where I wanted my life to go. When I looked at it a few months ago, it was mostly target weight goals and saving 10% of my paycheque. Planning fail.

I do think it's important to set goals. I use spreadsheets to keep track of my writing targets and my travel budget savings, and I use to-do lists to makes sure I get my weekly stuff done. But the big-picture stuff can be elusive. Does anyone ever really follow them? Telling myself I want to have a novel published by the time I'm thirty-two doesn't make that happen; sitting down and finding an agent (or deciding to get into e-publishing) does.

But since this blog can often be a dreamy place, here are some things I'd like to have happen by the time I turn thirty-five. I'm not sure how to get there, exactly, but being able to come back and look over this list might be the first step to accomplishing some goals.

Travel: Earlier this week, I realized that Mike and I have taken at least one trip together since we started dating. Some of these have been big-ass trips, and some have been weekend trips to New York City, but we've busted out our passports at least once per calendar cycle, and I think we can keep that schedule up. California this fall, and then in the next couple years, we have our eye on Scandinavia, Hawaii, and a return trip to NYC; the big-ticket trip is going to be Japan, which is a dream and seven thousand dollars away.

Work: Finishing my novel was a great first step; the next is going to be revising it and then finding a buyer. I want to at least have an agent by my next birthday. The long-game is definitely publishing a damn book, though. In the meantime, my day job is teaching me a lot, and I want to learn as much as I can about small businesses and non-profits while I'm there.

Family: Mike and I are making some big changes, which is really exciting! And we're starting to talk about what those changes could bring. I don't want to spoil/jinx anything, so I'll just say that we're in the negotiation stages of The Future.

Home: I want to find a great place that isn't above a bowling alley and below another bowling alley. Since we're making wishes, not plans, it should have outdoor space, in-house laundry, and a second bedroom. It should also be downtown, not in a condo building, and cost $800/month. Make it so, Toronto housing market! I just know you have some hidden gem! Oh, and if could not be infested with various insects or rodents, that would be terrific.

There are plenty of other categories I could make goals in—Friends, Siblings and Parents, Finances, The General Amount of Stuff I Have in my Home (I'm deliberate ignoring Target Weigh in favour of Target Amount of Desserts, which seems decadent until you realize that my target is two, on the weekends, and they'd better be chocolate)—but this seems like a good place to start. Putting these out there into the universe means that people can ask me about them ("Hey, how's your apartment hunt going?") and I can come back to this post and strike stuff out when it gets done. It also looks like a previously undiscovered territories on the map of the Republic of Kaitlyn's Life, and that's license to bust out the compass and go exploring.

Image via Congostudio