Plans are Useless, but Planning is Indispensable: Proud Moments of the 2010s

It's important to have a road map. Even if you just use it to keep doodling in new road.

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

Ten years ago, I was twenty-five years old. The calendar sessions of my post-college life had flown by in a scramble of international road trips, secondhand furniture and soul-searching efforts to define myself.

From nineteen to twenty-four, this included a lot of self-identification around snowboarding in a half-pipe. As a result, I was staring down the barrel of a new decade from a small ski town in mountains of Northern California.

I had four jobs and no boyfriend. I might as well have lit my college degree on fire and burned it for warmth. And honestly? I was never going to learn to pop out of a half-pipe without shattering at least two vertebrae.

It was time for a new plan. 

Thankfully, one of my pitiful little ski town jobs was as a freelance reporter for a mountain newspaper. Over the first months of 2010, a strategy for my entire course of existence cropped up from this one small corner of my life. By March, I had sold my snowboard out of a Safeway parking lot and packed up my car to move to New Orleans. I had convinced myself I was meant to work as a staff writer for the Times Picayune.

The problem? I didn’t actually have a job.

But I had my mid-twenties optimism, so off I went. I arrived at my brother’s house in the Broadmoor neighborhood in late spring, ready to scratch and claw my way into the newspaper world.

The Times Picayune, however, was not interested in scratching and clawing. They were interested in journalism students (I wasn’t), preferably from Ivy League schools (I definitely wasn’t).

I learned several valuable things during my time in New Orleans.

For example:

1. Mid-twenties optimism does not provide a paycheck.
2. Sometimes plans don’t work out.
3. So you gotta make a new plan.

In the famous words of Dwight Eisenhower, “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

If it got him through his position as overall commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, it seems like advice good enough to get me through my thirties.

I’ve adjusted the plan countless times since my (rather tearful) realization that my career in Southern newspaper writing was somewhat dead in the water. I’ve lived in three different countries and had ten different jobs.

Maybe it hasn’t quite been a plan. But it sure has been interesting. And I always have some thought about where I might be going, even if it’s not quite where I end up.

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