The Ten Year Plans…

…o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.

An apt adaptation from the poem “To a Mouse” by Robert Burns. If it sounds vaguely familiar, recall John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” from high school English.

Or check out the film. Gary Sinise. John Malkovich. It was awese. <-intentional truncation

As a 17-year-old ingenue, I thought I knew how my life would be ten years from point A. I think we all had those passing thoughts, right?

And as I reflect upon turning 27 this year, I think of how things are different. How, at 17, I thought I'd surely forget the silly things I was forced to learn. But I never forgot the poem we had to memorize…

"So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow, glazed with rain water, beside the white chickens"

Yes, it does Willie. Yes, it does.

I remember that, but I also remember making vague plans for life. I wondered what I would be doing at 27.

I feel like there's a sense of being frozen in your high school generation. People with whom you attended high school are just like you. They're in your boat. People who graduated a few years+ either before or after you are in a different realm.

It's difficult to pinpoint the exact sentiment, but it's almost as if everyone else around me is getting older. I'm stuck in a moment with my closer peers. We're not almost 30.

Except we are.

Now I think of life at 37. That's 20 years after high school, which seems like an eternity if it's anyone else. It doesn't seem so long when I think of my specific peers.

Life was very different roughly ten years ago. I remember my parents coming to visit me my freshman year in college to buy their pitiful college kid some food…and a digital camera. Those things were new back then.

"Back then". Geez.

In that moment, I would have never imagined my parents being divorced.

Ten years ago, I saw nothing but prime economic opportunity ahead. I remembered the million-dollar retirement concept from Economics in high school. By 27, I would have contributed $18,000 to an IRA. And surely the job market would continue to be amazing.

Life was so promising then. Not that I'm mopey about life now, but there was a different morale in this country ten years ago. I couldn't have imagined a tough job market. I couldn't have imagined how bitter our politics would become.

At 27, many of us have already seen friends marry and divorce. We've seen them welcome new life to the earth. We are the people who, at 17, seemed so old. I look at pictures of my peers with their children and I still see those peers as they were in high school. A child is having a child.

We're suspended in that moment.

I don't know how to characterize the feeling of 27. To be in one's late 20s through 30s and unmarried & childless, it's like a generational purgatory. I'm not really one of the young kids who party anymore, but I'm not settled down. It really is a kind of mid-air suspension in life.

Regardless, I am thoroughly pleased with my life now. It may not be exactly as I envisioned at 17, but life would be boring if you always knew the next move. I used to be a little obsessed with planning, but I have come to appreciate life's little moments even more as I've learned to leave the future open ended.

When I first thought of my "best laid plans" from 17, I wondered how my life could have turned out so differently. Then I realized that at that young age, your life plans are based on a limited lifetime of experiences. There are so many things you can't foresee at that age.

Good things.

Bad things.

Confusing things.

All have a place.

I don't put life on a timeline in the same way I would have at 17. I don't think 37 is the editor of my life's paper, breathing down my neck to meet the print deadline. My only goal going forward is to be content with the way life rolls.

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