Looking Ahead

Earlier this week I submitted an assignment for my fellowship called From-to-Path. With it, IDEX challenged me to craft a vision, not only for the next five months, but for the next five years. I’d known since before I’d left that this was due. I’d even printed out the guidelines and brought them with me on the plane, (in my backpack, where I believe they’re still scrunched). In any case, I had thought about it. And until this Sunday, I had thought about it as a great exercise, an opportunity for introspection and maybe even bold goal setting. It wouldn’t matter to anyone else what I wrote down. It was for me. Then came Sunday, the day before my From-to-Path was due, and I felt panic set in. I reopened the document on my computer, skimmed the meager responses I’d ventured to put down sometime before this desperate hour and concluded firmly that the task ahead of me was impossible. Five years? Five years?! That’s barely longer than the amount of time since I graduated high school. It’s a lifetime. It’s the blink of an eye.

Five years ago, I was a freshman in college. I’d only known the people I now call my lifelong friends, for a total of four or five months. (That’s less than the amount of time I’ll spend on this fellowship). I’d had only a handful of college classes under my belt and had chosen a major at least in part by filtering out the ones that required me to take more math. I thought maybe I’d be an archaeologist. Or a National Geographic photographer, maybe. Entrepreneur, social or otherwise, was nowhere near that list. Five years ago, I could no more easily have pictured my life today than I can today envision my life five years from now.

And yet.

And yet, I’d always imagined that I would travel, and here I am in India. And yet, I always wanted to do “something good,” and here I am working with a social enterprise. And yet, I’d always wanted to do “something different” and well, this is pretty different.

It dawned on me then that maybe, despite the jokes about my liberal arts major and my reputation for flights of fancy, maybe I was on a path. It wasn’t clear ahead and it certainly left a meandering trail, but what if it wasn’t all as random as it appeared? And what if the path ahead was actually getting clearer and I just wasn’t looking far enough ahead? So, I took a deep breath and I wrote down my hopes for the next five years:

  • I want to continue learning.
  • I want to visit and live in lots of exciting places.
  • I still want to do “something good.” *Cue The Sound of Music soundtrack*

I took a step back. Interesting. This list felt familiar. In fact, I think it’s been with me a very long time, perhaps all along. Well, that’s not so scary anymore. No, there’s nothing specific in there about what position I want to hold at what organization addressing what social issue. But that’s the fun of the journey, isn’t it? Not being able to see around the next bend, and then letting the view take your breath away? For me, it is. It always has been, at least. Maybe one day I’ll have a plan and draw a map. Maybe it will be within the next six months, or the next year, or the next five years. Or maybe not. But until then, I kind of like the path I’m on and I’m pretty excited to see what comes next.