Living in the present tense

This post originally appeared in the July 30, 2014 edition of the Wise County Messenger. I’ve decided to start posting my columns from the paper on my blog. Photo found here.

I spent last weekend visiting family in east Tennessee. Friday night was a party celebrating my TCU graduation and new job as well as my brother’s high school graduation, and Sunday was my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration.

My family’s pretty big, so I was expecting to talk to a lot of people at both of these events. I was mentally prepared to answer all of the questions that I knew would come up:

“Did you enjoy school?” Oh, yeah. Maybe a little too much.

“Are you all moved in and settled at your job?” I’d say so; you’d have to ask the rest of the staff here to get their opinion.

“Are you engaged yet?” An emphatic “no” followed by a rapidly shaking head.

Then Sunday I got a question I hadn’t heard the entire weekend: “What’s your five-year plan?”

I froze. Words tried to form, but they stayed stuck somewhere in my mind and couldn’t make their way to my mouth. I had nothing.

I don’t know why I froze – I’m notorious for being a Type-A planner. I rarely got in trouble as a kid and always tried to follow the rules. My desk, as I type this, is neat and organized. My apartment is always clean, as is my car. I alphabetized my family’s VHS collection when I was five years old because I wanted to make it look like a library shelf.

Calling me a perfectionist would be an understatement.

But when my uncle asked that question, I didn’t have an answer. I said something like, “Uh, probably still writing somewhere, we’ll see where it goes” as I went back to eating lunch. I blame my momentary hesitation on my Army brat upbringing.

I’ve lived in Texas for 10 years this August, but don’t let that number fool you – those aren’t 10 consecutive years. I lived in Killeen for six years back in the early ’90s when my dad was stationed at Fort Hood, and I spent the last four years at school at TCU.

Added together, that’s the longest I’ve lived in any state. I went to three high schools in three different countries, and I’ve lived in seven other states besides Texas.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve gotten to see some amazing stuff – Mt. Fuji, Pearl Harbor, the DMZ – and I got a world education that most people can only dream of, all because of my dad’s job.

The only downside is, now that I’m older and get to choose where I live, I have a fear that I’ll live somewhere for two or three years and then suddenly get the urge to pick up and move again. There was never a five-year plan in my life. It was more like a 24-month plan or a “We’ll see where the Army takes us” plan.

And now that I’m so used to that, I’m not sure how to proceed.

Maybe it’s not my upbringing but the generation I was born into. Studies have shown I’m not alone in my lack of planning – a recent survey from the Guardian said most millenials don’t expect to work anywhere for more than five years.

Sure, I’ve got dreams and goals. I want to write a book before I’m 30, try my hand at screenwriting, work for a nonprofit, travel some more, maybe start my own news outlet.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that maybe I’m not supposed to have a plan. Maybe for now, I’ll just see where it goes and enjoy life as it happens in the moment.

As for a hard, definitive five-year plan? I don’t have a clue – and right now, I’m totally fine with that.

Harris is a reporter for the Messenger.

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