Way leads on to way
At a recent job interview, I was asked where I saw myself in five years.
“Uh,” I ever so eloquently replied, inexplicably unprepared for even this most standard of interview questions. “I– uh– well, we want to move to Albuquerque?” Then I kinda semi-rallied and talked about how I wanted to still be writing from home, work in a job where I’m challenged and learning new things, blah blah blah. I guess all of that is accurate.
A more honest response would’ve landed somewhere in between “Hopefully working for you guys!” and “In five years? Honey, I don’t know where I’ll be in six months!” Both statements are equally true– and equally inappropriate to say in a job interview.
Truthfully, I was caught off-guard. Not only because it’s been over a decade since anyone’s asked me that question all, but also because life has taught me that there’s no point in looking that far ahead. Somewhere along the way I guess I stopped thinking about my future in those terms.
I can’t say my fumbling answer to the five year question is the reason why I never heard back after the interview. However, given that the previous month’s worth of samples I wrote were met with nothing but enthusiasm– enough enthusiasm that I got the impression the interview was more of a formality; they even added me to their project management system, for god’s sake– I can definitively say that whatever it is I blew, I blew awesomely.
In the month between the interview and me admitting to myself that I was never going to hear from my dream job again, I did a lot of thinking. What did I really want? What was my five-year plan, anyway?
I came up with the same answer I always do: I want to write the stuff I want to write. And I want to paint. Also watch movies. Yoga. Biking. Climbing. I want more time for living life, and less time living on someone else’s clock. So if that vision is my goal, I need to jettison everything that’s bogging me down or dragging me under.
For well over a year, I’ve been convinced that my current job is one of those necessary casualties, hence the interview. I need to cut back my hours so I can work on my own projects, so I need to make considerably more per hour to keep up with our existing finances. And that means finding a new place to work. At least, I thought so. Faced with the reality that I’m staying put a little bit longer, though, I’m forced to revisit my premise.
“Where do you see yourself in five years” is a super question for applicants in their 20s who are still naive enough to believe in five-year plans.
By 40, we know better.
Because roads diverge, and way leads on to way. Because when one door closes, a window opens. Because all those clichéd quips swiped from actual literature and slapped onto hokey motivational posters are absolutely true.
Because out of nowhere, maybe your boss gives you a 25% raise. Because out of nowhere, two excellent writers apply to your company, and your existing part-time writer announces that she wants to jump up to full-time. Out of nowhere, all of these things combine in a way that cutting back on hours while simultaneously making more money suddenly becomes possible– all without having to find a new job.
And that all happened in the span of five weeks. Over five years, life evolves exponentially.
Five years ago, we were stuck in Vegas with no foreseeable escape. Five years ago, my stepdaughter still walked out of rooms when I walked in. Five years ago, my wedding ring felt like a tiny little manacle. Five years ago, I was on the verge of leaving my career and had no idea what was next for me. Five years ago, I had zero hope for my future.
But, roads diverge.
Way leads on to way.
And here I am, still moving forward.
Out of Vegas. Making a mix CD for my stepdaughter, at her request. Wearing new wedding rings to remind me that relationships change like we change, and marriage is a choice we make every day. Four years into a new career. Bursting with dreams for what the next five years hold.
Even the worst traumas and biggest letdowns lead us places we’d never have gone otherwise, and our lives grow deeper, richer, and more vibrant as a result. Like Dorothy landing in Oz, we open a previously shut door to discover blazing technicolor where once was nothing but dreary, endless predictability.
Where do you see yourself in five years?