I totally had a five-year plan for most of high school, even if I didn’t know it. This was made very simple by the expectation that I would go to college–there was never really a question of what I would generally be doing for the next few years. That isn’t the case anymore, though. In five years, I’ll be 26. And okay, that’s not that old, but that’s very solidly my mid-20s–a whole lot older than I think of myself as being right now. 26-year-olds can be married and have kids and cure cancer and die in car crashes. Five years ago, I was 16, about to go into my junior year of high school. And while I didn’t think I was an adult even then, reading the things I used to blog about and revisiting the way I used to think is so weird, because that five year gap is just long enough to feel removed from my 16-year-old self, and just short enough to still remember exactly who she was. So while five years isn’t that long at all, it also really, really is.
The end of that five-year plan from high school is quickly approaching, though, with nothing in sight to replace it. In five years, I will be 26, with all of that potential ahead of me. Maybe I’ll be done with grad school, maybe I’ll still be working on it; maybe I’ll be married, maybe I won’t; maybe I’ll still live in California, maybe I won’t. And sure, I have some ideas as to what might be happening in five years, but there are several of them, each as likely as the next. So while I’m not worried about what is coming next–because, well, something is–I’m used to knowing just a little bit more than I do right now.
And maybe that plan is going to come in pieces, because there are so many things that I do not know for certain. This is real life–it is not so nicely predictable as school has allowed the past years to be.
At the root of it, then, maybe that’s the real issue: that “real life” is just around the corner. Perhaps it’s over-simplifying to say that my current day-to-day is not a form of “real life,” because yes, literally everything that happens is real life and is worth being present for and remembering; but also, there is the “real life” by which I think I really mean “adulthood” or “independence,” and it is correct to say that that has not yet arrived, although perhaps it is about to. And as much as I want that ideal to become a reality, like any other ideal, its realization will almost certainly fall short of what I expect. Like, today, I paid for groceries and half a tank of gas. Those are part of the realities behind that ideal of a real adult life, but I don’t think any 16-year-old daydreams about the bills they’ll get to pay when they move out. Ideal or not, though, some form of real life is coming with the end of my high school self’s five-year plan; really, some part of it is already here, regardless of whether I’m ready for it. And there’s no elegant way to wrap this up, because I don’t know what is happening–that’s the point. Whatever unfolds, though, it is real life.