I heard this question in several job interviews and I always hated it. I never understood if the purpose was to check how ambitious I was or to know if I was going to ditch the job any time soon. Five years is a long time and I didn`t want to have my life planned so far ahead. So I lied a lot on job interviews.
This seems to be a common thing in lectures and books about achieving success. The general idea is that you set up goals for yourself and if in five years you have achieved them, you`re winning the game of life, man! Congrats!
That`s fine to help you focus and everything, but how boring is that? Doing exactly what you thought you`d do five whole years ago; you are that predictable.
Five-years-ago Susan, at the age of 22 and starting to study journalism, would never, ever have guessed that by 28 she`d be a divorced single mother, published author, living in the UK and working at a nursery, while trying to help children on another continent to get cannabis*. That would have been a crazy thought I`d have probably left out at a job interview. Past Susan didn`t even know Newport Pagnell, the city present Susan lives, existed. And if past Susan had been offered the opportunity to live in this small town on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, she would have said: “no, thank you”.
If you don`t know Newport Pagnell, it`s because you don`t live in the immediate five-mile radio. I ended up here because of my ex-husband but, as you probably figured, we split up. So now I feel a bit out of context. There are very few opportunities for reporters in the area, especially foreign ones with experience on writing about weed. And for someone who lived her entire life in one of the largest cities in the world, Newport Pagnell is pretty much like groundhog day loop. But I`m getting used to it; it`s all a matter of adaptation.
There`s something I learned from Taoism and tattooed on my leg so I wouldn`t forget: be like water. Water is flexible and patient, it blends to the environment. It might at times be stuck on a puddle, but it`ll eventually evaporate and travel again. It won`t be stopped, it will keep moving forward. Water has the power of overcoming all sorts of obstacles, given enough time. So give me time, I`m on my puddle.
The puddle is not necessarily a bad thing either. Newport Pagnell has its charm and I love to learn about its long history. I`ll write more about it another time.
The point is: I found myself a single mother, the government denied me some benefits because I hadn`t lived in the UK long enough, so I figured I`d have to work even though I had a baby and was still breastfeeding. It had to be part-time, local and something I would enjoy. Since the jobs I went to college for were not available here I asked myself what I`d like to do, what I`d like to work with, and the answer was right in front of me – more like in my arms, probably crying or poking my eye. Children!
I have experience with kids so I knew what to expect. I might have said at some point in the past I`d never work with children again. But the whole point of this post is that things change, they keep changing. After I`ve had my share of disgusting adults I began to miss the innocent little creatures. Plus: I became a mother, which makes my brain be filled with love-for-children hormones.
So I got a job at the local nursery and I`m enjoying it a lot. Childcare for my son is provided there, so I`m never too far from him; the company is very nice and wants to help me get more qualifications; and I`m now thinking of doing a masters on Childhood and Youth, maybe start writing about it in the future. Things are coming together in ways I would have never expected.
If I had set up strict goals and tried to stick to them no matter what, I might have failed miserably or have been very successful, I`ll never know. I just know things would definitely be different now and that`s a thought that keeps me awake at night sometimes. I know it`s a silly thing to think about, but it`s hard to avoid. Things happened as they did and I chose to adapt, to be flexible, to get comfortable in my puddle instead of hating past Susan`s life choices. I have no idea where five-years-from-now Susan will be; I don`t really want to know. I set my goals weekly, anything beyond that is an exciting mystery.
PS: There`s nothing wrong with setting long term goals, I just think it`s a good idea to be prepared to abandon them when they no longer make sense, or adapt them when life takes you to a different direction.
*Just so there`s no misunderstanding, there`s a context here. I support groups of parents in Brazil who fighting for access to cannabis based medicine for their children, mostly with hard-to-treat epilepsy.