Plan B, C, D, E, F…
In college, I always knew I wanted to work for a magazine. Without a doubt. It was settled.
I studied journalism. I got good internships. I wrote for the Journal Sentinel and Associated Press. I flew to New York and visited the offices of Rolling Stone just to see it firsthand.
Then just before graduation, I had a crisis of confidence. Maybe I didn’t want to go into journalism?
So I did what anyone would do in that situation. I took a road trip to Montana after graduation and became a bell boy.
I started a blog about the experience, back in 2004 when blogs were in their infancy. I thought about, reflected and wrote about what I wanted, not what I thought the world, my parents, my friends or anyone else might want.
And I had a revelation. I actually did like writing, as long it was on my own terms and about the kind of topics I enjoyed writing about. Surprisingly, the blog started getting noticed and picked up readership while I suffered through some other not-so-desirable jobs.
One person who noticed the blog was an editor the Journal Sentinel’s young adult weekly magazine. She hired me on as a reporter, and it was a dream job. I got to do pretty much whatever I wanted, included starting another blog called Train with Tim and launching a social media presence.
Life was good.
Until the publication industry went down the toilet and our entire department was laid off. I was suddenly back to square 1.
I was lucky. The experience I gained through that job led me to a brand new position at Marquette, where I do writing and social media. Pretty much my dream job, again. It just doesn’t look anything like I originally planned.
My story is not unique.
For example, Ira Glass told this story on an episode of This American Life:
Just this morning, I was giving a talk to some people — there were about 100 people there. And knowing I was going to be talking about this on the radio today, I asked them to remember back to when they first hit adulthood. What is it that they thought their lives would be like? What was their Plan A back then? And I asked them, OK, how many of you are still on Plan A? Out of 100 people, only one person raised her hand. Just one. The youngest person in the room. Just 23 years old.
Everybody else in the room was like, Plan B? What about Plan C and D and F?
You’ve already experienced twists and turns in your college career, and there will only be more once you graduate.
We don’t know what our plan B, C, D, E or F will be until the opportunities and challenges present themselves.
Just remember what Stefon Harris said about jazz, improvisation and creativity:
So there is no mistake. The only mistake is if I’m not aware, if each individual musician is not aware and accepting enough of his fellow band member to incorporate the idea and we don’t allow for creativity... It’s not about bullying my vision or anything like that. It’s about being here in the moment, accepting one another and allowing creativity to flow.