I Don’t Have a Five Year Plan

All the EXPERTS ON EVERYTHING say you should set short and long term goals for yourself. You should have plans for your life, and a map for making those plans a reality. I don’t think these suggestions are bad. In fact, I like to plan ahead on most things. But right now, I don’t have a five year plan. 

I am in somewhat of a leadership position in my job, and a logical next step would be to go for an administrative position. However, I am not sure I want to do that. First, I don’t have my admin license, and since my master’s degree focused on curriculum/instruction rather than admin/leadership, I would have to go back to school to take classes before I could even take the test for the license! Not sure I’m up for that right now.

However, I also have begun to question our culture’s obsession with upward mobility. Everyone is trying to move upward an onward, to grab onto more power, to lead more people, to have a greater reach of influence. A writer named D.L. Mayfield, who has intentionally chosen to live in a downward mobility pattern, has taught me a lot about the dangers of upward mobility. (Read her Downward Mobility series here.) She talks a lot about the people in our nation who are forgotten, neglected, and discriminated against while the people in power continue to move into more and more privilege. I also think that there is much value in living a smaller life, despite the fact that our culture often tempts us me to try to live a big life.

In addition, in my years in education, I have personally seen individuals rise to leadership too quickly. These people often had not perfected the craft of the positions they were in before becoming leaders. Sometimes they had a minimal amount of teaching experience. Some were not quite ready for leadership positions.

Honestly, I don’t think I was ready to be a coach the first year, either. And maybe not even the second. Every year I have grown in my understanding of what coaching is, in my understanding of how to work with other adults in a relationship where they know they are valued and are my equal. I am not done learning this job, and I know it is not time for me to move up.

I am also scared that I would be moving up for the wrong reasons: for power or personal attention instead of having a passion for educational leadership. Often, when I think about what I want to do next, I envision myself back in the classroom. Many people in the education realm would consider this downgrading or downward mobility, so I would have to be willing to face that. But I think that the true work is going on in the classroom!!

Steven and I have both talked about getting doctorates, and that might be a possibility in the future. But I really don’t need one for the K-12 world. It would give me a little bit of a pay raise, but that’s it. I could transition to teaching college, and I think I would enjoy that, but I also believe deeply in on-the-job training. Much of what I’ve learned about teaching and learning has come through my school district.

With so much indecision, I am taking it one year at a time right now. I don’t have a five year plan for my career. 

As for my writing, I would love to say that in five years I’ll be a bestselling novelist and well known poet! Of course, we all have daydreams like that. Realistically, I would hope that I have a full-length book of poetry and my YA novel published by then. But I am also trying not to kill myself to write. I have a very full life without my writing, and while I am only fitting writing in here and there on the side, I am not going to go back to getting up at 4 am to write.

I have actually found that I became more productive when I stopped pressuring myself so much about writing. I have at times given myself deadlines or short-term writing goals. I think those can be good practices, but I am not going to stress if I don’t meet those goals.

I am learning that slow writing is good. Sometimes ideas have to simmer and stew in my head before spilling onto paper. Sometimes I have to go through lots of fits and starts before I get to the end of a draft. Sometimes I have to choose a conversation with Steven on the deck as we watch our kids jump on the trampoline instead of writing time. And that’s okay. Good art takes time. I am trying not to panic over the fact that I am almost 37 years old and have been trying to be a writer in some form or fashion since 2007. I believe that being present in my life will give me more material to write about!

So maybe I do have a five year plan after all:

Live my life. Watch my children grow. Encourage them. Invest in my marriage. Go outside. Enjoy nature. Teach students and teachers. Be open to being taught, myself. Be kind to people. Care for my loved ones. Make new friends. Take trips. Read many books. Write when I can. Fall in love with it all. 



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  1. Joanne Corey says:

    I think the five-year plan that you articulate at the end of the post is great. Sometimes when people make specific plans for their life, they don’t leave room for other people or serendipity or unexpected circumstances. At 54, I have never had a five year plan. Sometimes, i don’t even have a five minute plan! 😉

  2. I love this post. I recently removed my application for a coaching position for all of the reasons you listed here. I also struggle with the administrative licensure/PhD thing. Thank you for writing openly on this subject. It is good to know others struggle with this. I think this article was helpful, and relevant as usual. I love that you are open about your personal struggles. THANK YOU! I’ve done a leadership role and returned to the classroom a few years ago. I love it, but I struggle with whether I am doing “enough”. You RAWK. I will check out the downward mobility pieces.

  3. About ten years ago I had a five-year plan: to publish a book before I turned 60. I’m 64 and the book still isn’t published, but in those ten years I’ve published over a dozen essays (three in anthologies) and written four book-length manuscripts. I’m now working with an agent and editors on revisions to my novel, with serious hopes for publication in the next couple of years. I also directed or helped direct several writing conferences and workshops and spoke on panels at numerous book festivals. So, I wouldn’t say that my “five year plan” didn’t work. I believe it propelled me to work hard and take my job as a writer seriously. A plan is just that: a plan. But as you have beautifully pointed out in this wonderful post, our lives are more than just writing. For a plan to be helpful, it must be flexible and it must include every area of our lives–family, health, finances, hopes and dreams. Sounds like you’re doing just that. Great post, Karissa.

  4. Brenna says:

    I spent this morning freewriting about my goals for my own writing–I don’t have a 5-year plan, either, but have realized that it’s time to recalibrate–that recalibration is always necessary as we move along on our trajectories, whether or not we end up going in the directions we first envisioned. Thanks for this post–it’s a timely reminder. I appreciate your emphasis on slowness, too–our culture can be obsessed with speed and progress to the extent that it leaves behind much that is of value. I’m always amazed/confounded when I read articles on “writers who succeeded late in life!!!” and discover that none of them are over 40……I think it’s time for a revolution! 🙂

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