Friday, June 29, 2012

Plan B through M

  I am pretty sure that everyone has a plan B. A ‘plan B’ that involves, in my mind, an occupation different from your chosen career path…a hobby turned into a profession, taking a favorite activity and turning it into a business, writing that book you’ve had in your head for forever. This is different than a back-up plan, which is what you’ll do, for reals, if you lost your current job.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve discussed plan Bs, both in graduate school and now in the real world. My advisor actually asked my lab group to name their plan Bs at a lab retreat, and everyone had one: Chinese pop star, knitting shop owner, coffee shop barista (notable, all involving dropping out of grad school, another popular fantasy). And as graduate school progressed, I added plan C, D, E, and F: greenhouse operator, seasonal technician and part-time coach, starving artist, poet, art historian, organic farmer. Now that I’m out of graduate school, I continue to have this conversation with friends despite the fact that we’re in the real world: boutique owner, distillery chemist, robot designer.

  I do notice that most of our plan Bs involve activities that require a bit of startup capital, rendering them true fantasies. Some people do take the plunge and embark on a trajectory tangent to their current career. It seems like companies like Kickstarter give those plan Bs a better chance of succeeding, and I’ve read multiple articles about former professionals that take on new jobs (perhaps because they’re tired, perhaps because they’re fired). Here’s a sobering piece about plan Bs...illustrating why plan Bs really are wishful thinking.

  Not to worry - this isn’t an indication that I’ve given up! It’s just that sometimes thinking about one’s ‘ghost life’ is a refreshing fantasy. And it sometimes leads to the realization that plan B would be fun for a while…before you’d want to return to plan A. In thinking about what I want for a career and where I want it, I’ve been revisiting plan B thru M as well as trying to develop a plan A (and its various fall-back plans). In addition, I’ve realized that my life could end up encompassing multiple careers, whether out of my own volition or life events. I know I’ll always be adding to this list, imagining the multiple mes in other universes enjoying their music careers or bakery. I do hope that as attractive as these plan Bs are, I’ll circle back to plan A because, fingers crossed, that’s still where my interests lie. In the meantime, what’s your plan B?

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