The Five-Year Plan

I’ll never forget something an old friend said nearly four years ago while we were studying abroad in Costa Rica (has it really been that long?!). We were in Tortuguero, this lovely little town on the Caribbean coast. In fact, the “hotel” we stayed at was so isolated, we had to take little boats to get there and at night on the beach everything would look nearly pitch black because there was just NOTHING else around. Except for the massive sea turtles that would come in from the ocean to lay their eggs. But that’s another story.

Shortly after witnessing said spectacle of turtle nesting, a couple of friends and I were lounging on the beach, sitting on logs, drinking, and enjoying the night. I still remember the moon shining so brightly, you didn’t need lights or electricity around to make you feel alive. Those were the days before smartphones too, and none of us had brought any such devices to the beach that night. That’s when someone said, “Hey guys…so, like, what’s your five-year plan?”

We all stared at him in amusement. Five years? As in…the next five years? (Remember that we were broke college students spending a semester in a completely foreign country, with no desire to even look past the next five months!) “Uh, well, I’m already almost done with my five-year plan,” said one girl, who was in her fifth and final year at the university.

“Do you mean like, for life?” I said (or maybe someone else did).

“Yeah. Like, last summer before this I worked at this one hospital and they said when I come back if I want to work for them again I like, totally can,” he said. “Might go start with them after graduation.”

I remember feeling aghast at this statement. Jobs after school? I mean, yeah we go into college with the full intentions of obtaining such jobs, but who was thinking about things like that when salsa dancing was to be had, and yummy rice and beans to be eaten, and NESTING SEA TURTLES TO WATCH AND PLAY WITH. I certainly wasn’t.

But ever since then I always think of that one friend with the five-year plan whenever I have to think about my own. Does anyone else ever find five-year life plans to be useless, pointless maybe? I love them and I hate them. They always seem to change on me every single year, making the subsequent planned five years invalid and having to make room for a different set of plans. Hell, at this rate they’re changing every five months.

Before this month I had formulated a solid plan: I was going to rethink all my finances and get my money savings habits in order. I was done traveling—after all, I’d just been to Germany, France, Morocco, Spain, England, and wherever else before. I had hit off the major places on my bucket list, so there was no need to be hasty and jet off somewhere I have no intense, burning desire to go to. I was going to get back to this blogging/website business again, and build things up so they can get going properly once more. I was trying to be more active—this year I started rock climbing again and doing all sorts of exercises that the boyfriend (old manfriend? ex-person? I’ve no words to label him at the moment) had taught me. I had all these bloody plans in mind.

Sadly, admittedly, I feel they’ve all gone out the window once I got dumped. I hate to be one of those girls, one of those sappy depressing girls, but I have to admit that I feel a little thrown off. While my five-year plan certainly did not involve marriage or kids or any of those freaky grown-up things that many people on my Facebook feed appear to be engaging in a lot lately, it did kind of hinge on the idea that he would be a steady presence in my life and for that I wanted to say home, here in Chicago. And now that he no longer is such a steady presence in my life, I all of a sudden feel ungrounded, loose, and without true ambition. I honestly have no idea what to work toward right now. Nothing is coming out on top, telling me to “FOLLOW THIS PATH!!”

Is this what they call that quarter-life crisis?