13th Year Plan Essay About Myself

All that spring cleaning in March, plus us gearing up to move in the near future, has got me thinking about the future. Why is that? Not really sure.

We love where we are here in Bend. Sure, I’m ready for spring weather (why, oh why, is it still snowing?), but I know I’ll be happy as a lark come August. That said, we’ve always been a nomadic family, and we don’t see that changing in the long-term.

So to keep me going strong here in the land-that-snows-to-welcome-spring, I sat down and scribbled out a Five Year Plan for our family. If you’ve read much of me, you know I like things like Family Purpose Statements and celebrating the new year with reflection questions.

But this was honestly the first time I’ve written something like a FIVE Year Plan. I’ve thought about it, sure, and it’s always fun to answer that question, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” But never have I written out actual, concrete ideas.

It was eye-opening. (And yes, it reminded me of the 75-year plan on Bottle Rocket, if you ever saw that Wes Anderson blip in the late 90s.)

Our five year plan

2012:

Buy a fixer-upper, fix up said fixer-upper, and continue to live and work in Bend, Oregon. Write my next book. Continue saving for college and retirement (baby steps 4 and 5). Kids are 7, 4, and 2 (well, Finn turns two in June, halfway through the year). 10 year wedding anniversary!

2013:

Continue to live and work in Bend, Oregon. Keep saving for college and retirement, but also throw any extra money towards paying off the house. Also start saving for our 2015 plan. Take a family vacation. Next book released near the end of the year? Kids are 8, 5, and 3.

2014:

Continue to live and work in Bend, Oregon. Keep saving for college and retirement, but also throw any extra money towards paying off the house. Keep saving for 2015. Hit the road as a family on a North American book tour. Would love to live completely off the blog and other writing/online projects by the beginning of this year. Kids are 9, 6, and 4.

2015:

Keep saving for college and retirement, but also throw any extra money towards paying off the house. Take a six-month (or a year?) trip around the world as a family, researching where we’d like to live next. Keep working during this trip, begin writing my next book, and rent out our house in Bend. Kids are 10, 7, and 5.

2016:

Keep saving for college and retirement, and hopefully pay off our house. Start living overseas again, possibly for part of the year, with the remaining part of the year back in the U.S. If that’s in Bend, then still in the same house (maybe sublet the house as a vacation home while we’re overseas?). If elsewhere (like Austin?), then we’d sell the Bend house before going abroad. Kids are 11, 8, and 6.

The experience

It was harder than I thought it would be. Kyle would tell you that I’m pretty forward-thinking, continually getting excited about what’s next. But it was a challenge to get it on paper.

But it was also fun. It’s fun to dream, and scribbling this out gave me permission to Think Big. I put my pen down excited and refreshed.

I shared it with Kyle soon after I wrote it, and for the most part, he agreed. He helped tweak some wording and change a few glaring inconsistencies. But basically, this really helped us see that we’re tracking on the same page.

Things to know

This wasn’t completely comprehensive. I didn’t include every little travel plan or family event—we like to plan, but we also like to be spontaneous. We don’t know where, specifically, we plan to visit on our around-the-world trip (though we definitely have ideas!).

I kept it more about the entire family than about my own personal goals. Sure, I have them (health, skills to learn, and the like), but this five-year-plan isn’t really about me. It was about our family unit, what we want to do together.

Our plan is dreaming big, but it’s also possible. We actually are tracking along to fix up and then pay off our house, to travel, and to relocate again overseas. We may not get to do everything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t imagine.

This isn’t etched in stone. In fact, since I first wrote it a few weeks ago, it’s already changed a little bit. I’m not delusional in thinking nothing’s going to derail this plan, or that our desires won’t change in five years. I’m parking at Proverbs 16:9 on this one.

But I do know from experience that writing it down is a MAJOR step to seeing something happen. It’s happened to me already—this blog, the blog network, my book, living overseas, meeting certain people. Something magical happens when we own up to our dreams and draft them in words.

You can, too

You have dreams. I know you do. Even if you think they’re small potatoes compared to someone else’s, they’re still YOUR dreams, and you should treat them honorably.

Try it out this week—scribble down a few ideas for where you’d like to be in five years. What you’d like to do along the way. What would tighten your family bond. How these things would make you more the way you were meant to be.

And then share them with your spouse. Work on them together—hear his or her ideas, too, and decide if these are dreams worth pursuing together.

This weekend I created a five-year plan Pinterest board for visual inspiration. As we edit our ideas, come up with new ones, and cross things off the list, I hope to add more there!

Sure, I hold on to my life list loosely, and I have so much to be grateful for already. But we have permission to think outside the box, to dream big things for our family, and to pursue them. Join me?

What’s one thing you’d like to do in the next five years?

Lorton, Va.

My father takes me down to the arroyo when I am so small that I do not yet reach his waist. My feet fumble across flaking desert skin and he pulls me along gently by my hand and tells me to be careful of small cacti and the bones of dead jack rabbits. He does not let me straddle the rift where the earth divides into repelling mounds of sand. Instead, he slips his hands beneath my arms and swings me around in a half circle, his red face wrinkling into a smile.

That morning, my father had crept into my room with the sun and shaken me into consciousness. “Get your sneakers,” he had whispered. “We’re going on a treasure hunt.”

It is minutes later now and we are trudging down an overgrown trail, tactfully descending the deep slopes of New Mexican land. Everything smells strongly of mud and salt and soaked manure from the horse barn down the road. I almost trip over a weed, but my father steadies me and says, “Almost there, baby.”

The arroyo is different than I have ever seen it. It is scattered with long, silver puddles. In the pink glow of the rising sun, the sand looks shiny and slippery. Around us, green tufts of vegetation burst from the earth in unpredictable patterns and yellow wildflowers with thin stems knock softly against each other in the wind.

My father tells me to wait and he steps down into the wet sand. I watch as his sandals sink deep into the ground and leave long footsteps. He crouches suddenly, and digs into the earth with a discarded stick. Then he stands, approaches me, and places in my hand something slimy and smooth.

“A pottery shard,” he says, in explanation. “From the Native Americans, who lived right here a thousand years ago. The rain washes them up. If we’re lucky, we’ll find all the pieces of an entire pot.”

I look down at the strange triangular stone and wipe the sand from its surface. He lifts me up in his arms, carries me back toward the house.

__________________

My father gives me a book about Georgia O’Keeffe for my fifth birthday. We read it together and he bounces me on his knee and licks his fingertips before turning the pages. He points at a landscape that looks like a rumpled tablecloth and tells me, “This is why we’re here.” I steal a flashlight and flip through the book under my covers at night. I touch the same glossy picture and whisper, “This is why we’re here.”

__________________

When I am 6 years old, the Sunday school teacher asks me what my father does for a living. I tell her he is an artist like Georgia O’Keeffe. I do not know that I am lying. I do not know that he hasn’t sold a piece in months. I do not know that my mother sits at the kitchen table after I go to sleep and cries because the mortgage is past due and she can’t figure out a way to tell me that this year, Santa Claus just might not make it.

For Christmas, my father gives me a sparkling blue stone he found in the arroyo. I say thank you and pretend I mean it. Later, I stand on the edge of our brick patio and wind up my arm and throw the rock as far as it will go. It disappears inside the bristles of a pine tree.

__________________

I do not say goodbye to the arroyo before shutting the car door and stretching the seatbelt across my chest. I do not say goodbye because I think that I won’t miss it. We are leaving New Mexico. We are going to New York where my father will get a real job and we will become a real family. We drive alongside a cliff, the rock rough and jagged and sprinkled with a thousand tiny diamonds. I press my finger against the glass. This is why we’re here.

__________________

When I am 16 years old, my father takes me back to New Mexico and we go once more to the arroyo. The neglected trail is long gone now and we stumble in our tennis shoes over dried up cacti and colorless desert flowers. I am too old now to hold my father’s hand. He walks a few steps ahead of me and I do not see his face.

The arroyo is bone-dry, littered with dented soda cans, beaten strips of tire and mud-stained garbage bags. Many monsoon seasons have left the sides of the arroyo tall and smooth, except for the dried roots of long-dead plants, still lodged in the dirt, which reach out toward us like skeleton hands.

My father crouches over and his shirt draws taut across his back. He delicately parts the earth with his fingers and searches for something that he will never find again.

“No more pottery,” he says. He looks at me and squints his eyes against the sun. “It must have washed far away by now.”

Suddenly comes to me the vague image of my father in ripped jeans, pressing a pottery shard into my palm.

I wonder if he, too, has washed far away.

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