Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Dreaded 10 Year Question

Last week in my MOL 601 (Strategic Planning) class, the professor announced that we'd be heading out for ice cream and to have a discussion. This isn't uncommon, and is actually a treat. That is, until he announced the topic of discussion. "I want you to think about where you want to be in 10 years. Think about what strengths you have to get you there, and what obstacles might get in the way." Sheer. Panic. I am an open book. Literally, ask me anything. Just don't ask me that. This might be tied with, "so what do you want to do with your Masters?" as my least favorite question. I was paralyzed, and for a split second, weighed the cost of just skipping out on the ice cream and disappearing altogether!

If you know me, you may be scratching your head, wondering why a goal-setting, achiever like me was making such a big deal out of a frequently asked question. Let's start with the paralysis that comes from fearing if I say a plan, out loud, and then don't achieve it, it will be viewed as failure (primarily by me). Without a spelled out plan, I can succeed as I go along, because I (or anyone else) won't have specific, measurable objectives for myself and my own life. Now don't worry, I'm not wandering completely lost through life, I'm just better at defining what's on my to-do list for the next week. I can taste and feel those things. To-do lists are good. Lists with items that won't get checked off for a decade, not as good.

I was ruminating over this with a friend/mentor earlier this week, and she shared a perspective I could appreciate. She asked me, "ten years ago, where were you, and would you ever have imagined you'd be where you are now?" Ten years ago I had a different last name. I was just beginning my senior
year of high school. 17 years old and on top of the world. My highest priorities were cheerleading, show choir, youth group, and dance. I was taking Honors Physics (yuck), French 5 (tres chic), AP this, AP that, Political Activism (working on Bush's campaign much to my father's chagrin), and tirelessly working to preserve 10+ years of a 4.0 (which also, at the time, seemed like the most important thing in my world). I was gearing up to miss an insane amount of school (all excused) for school trips from debate tournaments to Youth in Government to my first trip to NYC with my marketing class. I was intently focused on maintaining an imagined perfect balance of academic excellence, extracurricular involvement, and community service entrenchment to make me the most desired college applicant around. Academic lab (study hall) was spent giggling around a table in my mom's classroom, making lists with friends of the qualities we hoped to find in our future spouses. I'd venture to say that things like "tall, dark, handsome, rich, and doctor" topped the list (priorities folks). Weekends were spent in friends' basements or at Kay Bova (Steak and Shake for those of you non-St.Louisians) where I consumed copious amounts of gluten and dairy and never gained a pound. I was counting the months until a spring break cruise to Mexico. With starry eyes, I was dating the first boy who'd ever told me he loved me, and assumed that I was feeling all love had to offer. Though I didn't know it, in just five short months, I'd say my last goodbye (this side of heaven) to the greatest teacher I'd ever had. One who was so influential in my life, I took for granted that I'd eventually look out at my wedding and see him in the row with my family. The dining room table of my parents' house was littered with college applications, college brochures, college essays, and financial information for the FAFSA. None of them were for Drury because, "my sister went there and we're nothing alike, plus it's smaller than my high school!" The official plan was to live in the honors dorm at the University of Missouri, where I was pre-admitted to the J-School, and major in Public Relations. (The real plan in my head was to be a Rockette.) I'd chosen Public Relations because I thought I could do anything with it, which was a good strategy for me, as in the span of a week I'd change my mind for career plans a dozen times. I'd wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon, a lawyer, a business woman, a doctor with a law degree, a doctor with an MBA (you can see my love of school runs deep). I thought I'd live in St. Louis forever, or if not the Lou, Chicago, New York, or another big city (where, naturally, my life would bear a striking resemblance to Carrie Bradshaw's in Sex in the City).

Christian author/blogger, Donald Miller, penned a post this week that caught my eye in light of my forward, or lack thereof, thinking. In his post, I'm Glad I'm Not the Same Guy who Wrote Blue Like Jazz, Miller responds to critics who "miss" the author he was a decade ago when he released his first bestseller. What he also reveals, is that he was quite a different guy 10 years ago (think 150 pounds heavier, no wife, no money). "People are designed to grow, and if they don't, it's because something's wrong." Miller refreshingly highlights that our creator God designed us to grow and develop, and to learn about Him, love, and ourselves a little more each day. Consequently, he questions why any of us would want to stay the same. I don't want to stay the same. Do you?

Photo Credit: Margot Lied

I may not know what I want my job title to be in 10 years, or even if I'll want to have a job outside our home while (God-willing) raising our kiddos. But I know this, in 10 years, I want to be a better, stronger version of myself. I want to have learned more, bought less, built deeper relationships, loved more, and showed the love of The Lord to more people. Whether I'm a writer, or a speaker, or a consultant, or a mother, or a combination of those and other titles, I want to know, share, and give more to others than I can/do today. In the next 10 years, I plan to read a lot of books, listen to a lot of sermons and TED Talks, try tons of new recipes, write many blog posts, travel to dozens of countries, eat a lot of real food, and burn a few hundred calories (let's hope that's weekly, or I'll have a Donald Miller story on my hands)! It doesn't matter what house (or city) I'll be living in, but I hope to be (God-willing alongside Weston) entertaining friends and family in multitudes at a full dinner table every night, with house guests on most weekends.

It is okay to get better. In fact, I think it's God's will for each one of us. It's okay to desire, dream, even announce in blog "stone" that I will, in fact, be a better version of myself in 10 years, and you can hold me to that. So, where do you see yourself in 10 years?

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