Fuck Having a Plan
“You’re moving to London? Amazing! So jealous. What’s the plan?”
I was asked this question every day for months before I left the tarmac.
In response, I would scowl and scramble to reorganise my features into a smile that looked earnest. I decided to fabricate a plan to my friends who nodded approvingly, but I just got that gross feeling of deception in my stomach.
Really, the answer should have been:
“Well, I’m moving to a country I’ve never even been to before. I don’t have a job to go to. I should’ve figured it out earlier, but I’m terrified of looking at my CV for some reason, so I’ve been binging on Netflix while eating Kraft cheese singles instead. I think I’m gonna sleep on the floor of my friend’s bedroom somewhere in Zone 6 until she kicks me out. It’s also freezing there and I don’t own a coat.”
Internally, I was panicking. I don’t have a plan. What if I don’t get a job? I’m unprepared. Maybe I just shouldn’t go. OKAY GREAT. I’m staying. Guys? GUYS I’M NOT GOING.
The thing that terrified me the most had nothing to do with money or loneliness. It was this heart-stopping question: will I still love myself even if I fuck this up?
It is a hard thing to admit you are jumping in, unprepared, acknowledging the huge possibility of failure. It takes serious, serious guts to tell the anxious voices in your head that, “Yes, I realise this could go horribly wrong but shut the fuck up – I’m doing it anyway.”
Like with any daunting, exciting challenge, you have to afford yourself the space to fail and trust that your people will still love you if you do. There is also no response to, “You’ll find your feet in no time!” other than, “I hope so!” paired with a forced smile and a professionally smooth subject change.
As teenagers, we are asked to choose the elective subjects that will shape the rest of our lives. But how could I, an insecure 15-year-old who was more obsessed with boys than my future, have come up with a plan? The answer is that I couldn’t then, and I still can’t now. The only difference is that with 12 more years of life experience under my belt, I’ve stopped berating myself for it. It’s taken me a long time, and a lot of therapy, to figure out that not having a plan is totally, completely and absolutely fine.
There is no shame in being single and childless, homeless and jobless at 27 in a country I’ve been in for all of about five days. No shame in being married and pregnant, having never left the town you grew up in, either. But it’s a mistake not to back yourself.
Maybe it won’t ever be as easy for you as it is for your gorgeous and talented best friend, and maybe you will fuck things up a grand total of 437 times before you get it right, like I do. But the only way I’ve ever really made it work is by being confident enough, and scrappy enough, to stand in my own corner.
So, fuck the plan! I’m trying not to push myself into the mould I’m told I should be in. Instead, I’m trying to have the confidence to reject that mould as something that is just not going to work for me. It’s not easy, but when I get shaky I remind myself that if I were doing the career I was encouraged to pursue in Year 10 (a school counsellor), I’d be so off it (I hate teenagers).
I think the trick might be to love yourself not because of your success or failure, but because you gave it a shot when you didn’t think you had the guts to follow through.
Cover by Chris Lawton