According to Facebook, five years ago I shared this quote from one of my favorite books, A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle:
We tend, today, to want to have a road map of exactly where we are going. We want to know whether or not we have succeeded in everything we do. It’s all right to want to know--we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t--but we also have to understand that a lot of the time we aren’t going to know. (187)
In the context of the passage, this tendency of wanting to know all the details of our lives and plans stands in contrast to “not having to see the end of the road in order to have the courage to take the first steps” (187).
I was very struck by the fact that I posted this five years ago, given the infamous interview/life coaching question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” Five years ago, I was newly engaged to Dave and finishing up my master’s degree, preparing to get married that summer and move to New York.** I find it incredibly ironic that this quote struck me so much at the time, because while it indicates that I knew I wouldn’t really know how everything would turn out, deep down, I definitely Had a Plan that I felt pretty confident I would succeed in. It didn’t really take a lot of courage for me to “take the first steps” because I really thought I could see the end of the road.
According to that plan, right now I should be a stay-at-home mom in New York with one or two kids, having successfully exited from a great job in publishing, with plans to move to the Midwest in another five years or so. I’m currently childless in Minnesota, and I exited my publishing job due to stress, not motherhood. Where I ended up isn’t where I thought I was going.
But I think where I ended up is where I’m supposed to be. My job difficulties helped me realize, in part, that there were many aspects of my mental health that I hadn’t dealt with. Even though the next few years were hard and led to lot of feelings of failure, I’m in a much better place and will be, in turn, a much better mother, than I would have been otherwise. I’m extremely happy in Minnesota and see now that this timing was much better logistically. And job-wise, pursuing writing is not only what I’ve really wanted to do, but is a much better fit for my temperament and personality.
All of this is good for me to keep in mind as I now have a new picture of where I want to be in five years, part of which is what prompted the courageous step of moving to Minnesota and the other changes that went along with that. Plans are good. Taking steps is good. But they need to be taken knowing that things could turn out very differently, and that’s okay.
I’m grateful that I feel that my change of plans turned out to be a really good thing, but there were times during the process when I didn’t believe that. The key has always been to keep taking those steps.
** I've since realized this was actually four years ago. The point still stands.