Why I think it's okay to toss out your life plan

Monday, November 17, 2014

I have a friend, I'll call her L. So, L was dating a guy, I'll call him J. So L and J go on 9 or so dates and things seem to be progressing nicely. L has her own dreams, and is working towards a graduate degree. J already has his PhD and a house. At slightly different life stages, but agree on most things, laugh when they're together, all the feel-good beginning of relationship stuff.

When, on date 10, J drops this bomb: 

"I just want to get married and have kids soon, and you're not there yet, [with your graduate degree that will take 2.5 more years] so, yeah, I don't see us working out." and that's that. He breaks up with her because she doesn't fit into his "life plan." J is a nearly 30-year-old man with a PhD! And he breaks up with her on behalf of his IMAGINARY plan not matching the projected near-future of her life. As if his chances are so high he's just going to stumble upon a nubile lady-in-waiting eager to give birth at the drop of a hat.

I couldn't disagree with J's outlook more. Here's my stance: Life isn't about finding someone's whose "plan" matches your "plan." Life is about finding people you care about and building your plans around them.

You can't just make a plan and fill people into slots. Husband? Check. Best Friend? Check. Child? Check. Your life is not a project plan. You're dealing with people. Living, breathing, changing beings. Who don't solely exist to be forced into your timelines.

Although I did the standard high school > college > job thing that is common, at least in this era in the United States, I never concocted some grand plan for my life outside of that.

I am not (and have never been) one of those people who says "..and I want to get married by the time I'm 24 so I can start having kids when I'm 26 and be done having kids when I'm 30." or whatever. You know what I'm talking about, obviously. A lot of people do it! I just never did. 


Regardless, many people map this stuff out, including our aforementioned J, and I want to know: is it comforting? Or stressful? I think it sounds overwhelming! I'm reminded of Van Zant's Help Somebody where they twang "And if you want to hear God laugh tell him your plans." 

(Tangent: I was a huge country fan in high school. I saw Tim, Faith, Toby, Kenny, Luke, and Keith in concert. Yes, I'm assuming if you're a country fan you don't need last names and if you aren't you don't care.)

If you have grandiose, detailed life plans, I just fear you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Maybe it's the ex-Project Manager in me, but things take longer than expected, people let you down, and there are so many outside variables you can't predict it seems almost silly or arrogant or both to map out your life as if you have complete control over it. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for goals. (Example A: 101 in 1001 list) But that's very different than a "master plan" for life (which I decidedly don't have.)

I think it's much more important to prioritize the important people in your life, and not to worry about missing the alleged "milestones." If you would have told me when I was 20 that at age 26 I'd be living in Madison, Wisconsin with my boyfriend and a cat there is no way I would have believed you. A CAT?!? This is preposterous.*

But life is life. It ebbs and flows and moves along regardless of your plans for it. Days happen whether or not you plan them out. Minutes pass with and without back-to-back hourly meetings.** People who you thought would be with you forever suddenly leave. People who you never would have guessed stick around. And I just think you might miss out on some pretty great people if you move through life with blinders on, prioritizing a so-called "plan" rather than the people who happen to come into your life. I'm looking at you, J.

So, if you're being held back by some detailed milestones creeping up on your life, and you're starting to worry about missing your dates, here's my advice: get rid of your plan. You can live without it. You may even live better.


*Mike Birbiglia voice.
**One of the strangest part of not having a full time job anymore is the lack of meetings. And how time passes by just the same.


  1. Oh I agree, love happens when it wants and if the connection is strong enough all those life plans have a way of working out. Poor L.

  2. I'm thinking lucky L. Who wants to be married to "that". 10 dates was more than enough time wasted.

  3. I couldn't agree with you more on this. While it's great to have goals and ambitions I don't think anyone should try to nail these down too much into 'when I'm x age I want to have achieved x'. I remember after my friends and I left university we all said where we thought we would be aged 30. I thought I would be married and have kids. As it turned out, getting married took another five years (and I hadn't even met my husband aged 30!) and the children are a work in progress as it were! But lots of other things happened to me in that time. Life is what you make it and too much planning and not enough spontaneity means you could miss out on so much. Hope your friend L is OK x