In a life that I once inhabited, I knew someone who was the epitome of righteousness for people around me. He was the person to look up to, emulate and go to for advice on life, career and all of that. He spoke a lot – mostly things that everyone already knew but did it with such an air of authority that made everyone sit and listen in awe. Yes, you guessed it right. He was a consultant.
On one particularly long drawn evening over drinks with friends and family, the topic of discussion turned to my future. He was of course, leading the conversation stressing that if I didn't have a five-year plan; I was more or less wasting my life.
As the evening progressed and my self-esteem steadily regressed, I realized that I didn't have a clue what the next five years would bring for me, what I wanted to do with my life or where I wanted to be. I didn't even have a one-month plan.
Was my life set for failure?
In the days that followed that eventful evening, I wasted tons of paper writing down plans for my future. I wanted to be a CEO, I wanted to do an MBA, I wanted to make lots and lots of money, blah, blah blah…. In the years that followed that eventful evening, my set answer for the interview question – ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?’ was a well-rehearsed, politically correct answer that always got me the job.
The truth is, all of it was bullshit. I would always come back from an interview with a bitter taste in my mouth because I knew I had been bluffing. I didn't know what my plan was. I was just getting better and better at making up a perfect picture people could buy.
Ten years, five homes, four jobs, three relationships and one sky dive later, I don't think I ever will. None of those perfect plans have ever worked out and it makes me wonder if the consultant was right.
Is an unplanned life a wasted one?
The thing about living an oblivious, unplanned life is that time passes by in sections – sometimes fast and sometimes slow instead of major milestones and rewards. You blink an eye and a year is gone and then another. Life becomes a series of threads stitched together with stories and adventures that sometimes make for interesting conversation over drinks. You remember feelings rather than actual events, bits and pieces of people and places that crossed your path.
Like the time when you laughed so hard that you almost died of a stomachache.
The look in his eyes when you just started dating and how it made you go so weak in the knees, the smell of fresh pasta in a tiny street side café in Italy, sunsets, walking on the grass barefoot and then lying down to watch the sun dance amongst the leaves for hours.
You remember contours of a face and forget the face itself and cheesy lines from books that you quote in real life. The regret of not getting the extra scoop of ice cream because someone mentioned ‘calories’, the sound of church bells, songs and Michael Jackson dance steps. You remember pain, sorrow and joy.
You forget the promotion letter you received that is thrown somewhere at the back of your bedside drawer, long conversations on your performance at work with the boss, the traffic delays, the clients, the campaigns, the dress you spent a fortune on and the pair of shoes you so loved once.
And is it worth it?
Perhaps it is. One day five or ten years down the line in the middle of a random conversation with a stranger you look back it all comes together. You have grown up. You have changed. You don't have the dollars and the title but you have something else. Something bigger.
You realize you can finally say no to things – social invitations, people who are ruthless, negativity, consultants who try to coach you and boring dates.
Sitting and drinking wine in a quiet restaurant makes more sense than getting beer spilled over yourself at a concert and when you are there your biggest concern is if the loos are close enough.
You spend money on experiences and understand the importance of comfortable footwear, breakfast and vitamins. You forgive easily because keeping a grudge is a lot of effort and brain time. You are comfortable with your quirky, unique, unplanned self.
It hasn't been a wasted life.
I would love to go back in time and tell the consultant that I am glad I never had a five-year plan.
It isn’t about what is yet to come but a spark of epiphany that occurs in the present and flashes everything that has transpired in front of your eyes validating that you exactly are where you ought to be in the now.
It is about the five years that went by. The rest is just coincidence that will occur sometime in the future. And when it does, I will just wing it! (Like always)