The Plan…

Quite often, it’s the women around me that inspire the posts I write here, particularly when it relates to issues we all face day to day and thoughts we may have. Back in January I had dinner with a good friend and the conversation turned to our plans for the year, both practical and aspirational. Both at a significant crossroads in our lives, we covered everything from moving home to moving careers, financial decisions to starting a family, holidays and quality of life. The conclusion was that my friend had a plan and it made me think, I never really had a plan.

Image: Creature Comforts blog

The magazines always tell us women have a ‘plan’ and I know that studies have shown that women with a plan are more likely to achieve it, but it left me wondering, what was your plan and how does life compare now? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard friends say they ‘want a baby before they’re thirty’ (the majority now have,) to be married by X age or to move house in three years… The majority of my friends are also doctors, so I don’t hear as much as perhaps some of you do about career progression – with us it relies on the completion of a training program that is fixed in time. But now many of them are GP’s I hear maternity benefits and the pros and cons of partnerships being discussed and planned.

And me? Well, apart from never really having a plan, I still don’t. My friends would probably be surprised at that but apart from single-mindedly knowing I wanted to marry Pete, otherwise I live very much in the moment. Looking back, many of the plans, perhaps better termed ‘ideas’ I’ve had in recent years have been blindly pushed ever backwards. Moving house postponed as we don’t really need to until we have a baby, and that baby remains 2 or three years in the future, much as it was 2 or 3 years ago! Career wise, I’m treading water, and enjoying it. I’m not progressing on the career ladder, but I’m looking around me all the time and learning about what I do want in the future. Not needing maternity benefits means I also don’t need the benefits of a steady job.

Image: Portillon

Reading all that might make me sound relatively relaxed about it, which I mostly am, but every now and then, I freak out and wonder what on earth I’m doing. If I don’t get a job, when I do want a baby I’ll have to wait until I accrue maternity leave. If I wait much longer I’ll be competing with all the newly qualified GP’s that start work in August. If we don’t move soon, house prices might change, we might lose money on the house or end up buying a house that needs loads of work with a small baby. It’s easy to spiral into panic. I need a list, we need a plan!

But I don’t, I have to remind myself it’s ok, I’m almost thirty with so much ahead of me, there’s no rush. I’m kind of glad I never made a plan, as I don’t have anything to compare myself to, to make me feel bad, to feel like I haven’t achieved what I always thought would happen naturally. And you know what they say, the best laid plans…

All that leads me to thinking about you readers. What was your plan and how does where you’re at now in life compare to where you thought you would be? I love hearing your perspectives on things and think a problem shared is a problem halved, so lighten the load a little and let’s hear your story.

Love, a plan-less-but-happy

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42 thoughts on “The Plan…

  1. I’ve never had a plan as such but I when I got to around 25 (and probably the peak of my career at the time) I decided I would like to be married to my boyfriend of 7 years in the near future and then start a family. We married in 2010 and have been trying (on and off) unsuccessfully for a baby since then. So unfortunately things don’t always go the way you want them to and I’ve realised I can’t have everything I want when I want it! Again there is no need for us to move from our 2 bed maisonette until we need more space so I suppose that has been put on the back burner for a while and probably until the economy picks up too.


    • Hey Marlene, I’m sorry to hear that 🙁

      You’re so right, I think some of my lack of life planning stems from us losing my Dad when I was a teen, he was 46 and no doubt would have planned for much more time, but you don’t always know what’s coming. But then I have friends with similar stories who planned as a direct result of losing parents, ie having children younger so they had more time with them in case anything awful happened in future. Everyone is very different.


      • Thank you Rebecca 🙂

        I count myself lucky that I have options available to me should I need them, options that women would not have had years ago. I’m optimistic though and am just going to let nature take it’s course for a while longer yet!x

  2. I am definitely a planner, I’m constantly counting the years to work out when I’d need to acheive each thing by to get to my goal, I have Plan A, Plan B if that doesn’t work out and even Plan C. I was on edge for 6 months before my boyfriend proposed as I knew in “the plan” I would ideally be married sometime in 2012. I don’t worry about it though, in fact it makes me worry less as I know I am on the right path for what I want from life and I’m not going to be making any decisions that lead me to be stuck in a job I don’t want etc.As long as I don’t beat myself up if things change then I’m happy with being a planner 🙂

  3. I used to be a planner. The plan was… graduate, move to London, be a journalist, not settle down for years and basically work hard, and play hard.

    Then, just after I graduated, I met Mr P. I did move to London, but as things got more serious I moved back up North and eventually moved in with him.

    Then we got married, and I’m not a journalist, not in London. I certainly didn’t see any of those things coming, but I wouldn’t change them at all.

    You just don’t know what direction life will take you in, but you have to embrace whatever happens and not worry too much if they go against any type of plan.

    However, one thing I’ll stick to my guns on is… no children for at least the next 4-5 years!


  4. I plan absolutely everything. I can’t help myself, however I also don’t mind changing it to fit around life, which most definitely cannot be planned. As I’m finding out at the moment with the whole baby thing. But hey ho, I’ll just have to spend some fun time coming up with multiple other plans!

  5. First time commenter here! I’m not usually one to comment, but your post really struck a chord with me just when I needed it today. I have always had a bit of a vague plan, wanting things for fairly intangible reasons (PhD, dogs, my own house, etc). An odd list really, but that is how I am! At christmas I changed jobs, leaving a secure, well paid job for something less secure and less well paid but more what I wanted to do and with a better quality of life. I was feeling a bit of self-doubt today about this decision (I didn’t hate my old job by any stretch, but at the same time it was my first “proper” job, and the people I worked with were lovely in the most part). I don’t quite know where I want to end up career wise in the next few years, but your post brought it home that that’s okay. I really need to learn to trust my instincts and appreciate what I have and your post helped me do that so thanks!

  6. The dreaded plan. I was in the camp of ‘planning is just asking for things to go wrong’ until recently. I always vaugely thought I’d have a baby around now (29-30) but having discovered after getting married last summer that my supposedly professional job of seven years only offers statutory maternity pay…that idea might have to go on hold…or just mean HUGE cutbacks (so no looking at all the beautiful things on FF!) I’m looking for jobs with better benefits, and one I’d still enjoy, but as you say, that would mean waiting for at least a year…wish I’d had more of a plan now!! (or a better boss!) xx

  7. I have what I like to think of as a “soft focus career plan”, i.e. I have a vision for what I want to be doing in 10 years time – so the kind of activities/leadership position I want, but I’m fuzzy about what this will look like exactly. From this I have a gut feel about the kind of skills and experiences I want to gain and I develop this as I see opportunities open up.

    Have I had a plan for my personal life, well not really. When I met the man that is now my husband I knew within six months I wanted to marry him, preferably before he turned 40. 18 months ago we did this and in the last year we’ve bought a house – something that was on our to do list, but not a pressing one until the right thing turned up, which it did and, renovations aside, it met the house wish list criteria which we’d been working on together for about three years.

    Maybe if having a detailed plan isn’t for you then developing a long term look and feel of what the future could help? It provides something to aim for but gives you flexibility in how you get there. And there is nothing to say that that vision can’t change…

    Rebecca – I love the quote “What are you going to do with your one wild and precious life?” I came across that quote a few years ago on a course and it is inspiring.

  8. My life is absolutely not how I imagined it would be – fall irredeemably in love at 17, marry at 20 (yes I did!), live in Asia for a while, work for a couple of NGOs, have four (FOUR!) beautiful babies between 25-33, and now in my early forties becoming a professional silversmith and jewellery designer, growing cut flowers on the side. City born girl now living in a barn surrounded by fields. I just could not have predicted any part of it, or the timing of it. I guess I have just embraced opportunities when they have come along. I get occassional twinges that I haven’t used my education as fully as I could have career wise, and it freaks me out that doing what I do now I couldn’t yet support myself financially if I had to, and that makes me feel a bit indulgent, but then I look around me and realise how much I do in other ways to keep my family ticking along. I like a bit of short term goal making, but I think a long term plan would make me feel a bit constricted.

  9. I’m not a planner anymore. One of the greatest lessons life has taught me is go with life’s curveballs. Push for what you want by all means, but don’t be surprised when you end up somewhere completely different (often even better) than you planned for.

    The reed that bends with the wind remains the straightest.


    • 100% agree with Penny!

      In life the things I thought I had planned never worked out according to the format I had laid out. The one thing I never ever planned was falling in love with someone while he was on the other side of the stupid planet, falling in love with the first long-term boyfriend I ever had, falling in love whilst I was at Uni (I was totally focused on my degree at Uni, working to my plan, and falling for G was a massive headf*ck and really not what I wanted at the time!) And that’s turned out better than anything I’ve planned so far!

      K x

  10. Oh I plan. I make lists and love crossing things off. But with life, I’ve learnt the somewhat hard way to just go with it. You never know what’s around the corner.
    Whilst I was completely ready to get married, I am completely unready to have children. And its for purely selfish reasons. i love my life at the moment. My career is back on track, my money is my own again after the wedding and I want holidays. Lots of holidays. Im sure Martin and I will start a family when we are ready and we have both agreed not to bow to pressure on this (mainly from my Mum!).


    • Hey Mahj,
      I commented on your post on AOW about making a leap about how I’d also applied for a maternity cover post closer to what I wanted to do ie very similar situation to you. I got the job and am sitting in my new office on my first week right now! Feeling very excited about the new challenge and hope you’re still enjoying yours as much. Your post definitely encouraged me that I was doing the right thing so just wanted to say thanks x

      • Aww Linsey this is really sweet and I feel all glowy that I helped someone take the leap also.
        So so glad that you decided to take the mat cover job and that its working out so well for you. And yes, I’m still totally loving my job! xoxo

  11. Great post and love reading all the comments on this. I don’t think I ever had a plan as such (although coming from quite a traditional family I think my mum had the whole get married, have babies thing and was a bit miffed when she realised that wasn’t just what we all wanted out of life and that career was important too ) However when I met H2B at 26 it became clear we wanted the same things, so bought a house together and we’re getting married soon. If I haven’t had met him then the plan would be very different – would I be sad and be holding out for the one? I’m not sure. Some of my girlfriends are taking the opportunity at 30ish to travel the world and I think I would have loved that too but then I also thank my lucky stars everyday that I was lucky enough to meet someone so amazing… 🙂 And if I hadn’t have met him then maybe by now (nearly 31) I would have heard that biological clock ticking!

    I’m hoping a family does follow (and perhaps that’s not ideal at the moment as I don’t have a permanent job so wouldn’t get maternity leave) but I’m not in a huge rush and circumstances in my family recently have taught me that sometimes life throws you some curveballs and things just don’t go to plan and that’s okay too, there is always an alternative path…

    Thought provoking as ever Rebecca 🙂 xx

  12. Very good post! I have to say, day to day I’m a planner and an EPIC list maker! Organisation is my thing 🙂 But in the ‘bigger life sense’, I, like many people, realised that life doesn’t really do what you want, when you’d like it to.

    Where I am now isn’t really where I planned to be in my mid 30’s. But it’s a great place and I’m really happy. And that is more than enough for me 😀

  13. I may be a little older than most of your readers (47) but at 23 was determined to have a high flying career in management and “use” my university education. Married at 25 I found myself pregnant 2 years later, much sooner than planned, and what do you know, I loved having babies, it was so much more fulfilling than career success. Three kids later, I’ve worked part time for most of their childhood allowing my husband’s demanding career to flourish.Yes I’ve sometimes been jealous of his career success but I’ve had time to bake, garden and support my children and husband in non financial ways. Definitely not what I planned but overall no regrets. (and 19/16/10 years ago maternity pay and leave was pitiful.We managed just fine because priorities are different. Sleep takes precedence over shopping!) Sorry hope that doesn’t sound too preachy!

    • Age doesn’t matter Kate – I’m sure when I’m 40 or even 60 I’ll still be wondering what’s next! Also glad to hear you don’t judge yourself on career success. Theres so much more to life than work (in the traditional sense.)

      You also voiced what I suspected re babies and priorities… 😉

  14. I’m in no way a planner. It used to scare me but now I think life will take you where it wants anyway. The more I hear about people having fertility problems etc, so much more common than I imagined, it makes me realise that some things can’t be planned.

  15. I had a plans but life always got in the way. I always dreamt of having a brilliant career but when I was 18 I didn’t feel ready to go to uni so I put it off until I was 23. I really feel that I wasted that time and maybe if I hadn’t have gone to uni at all I would be a lot further on than I am now. In my 2nd year at uni my mum was diagnosed with a terminal illness and died in 2006. I couldn’t really concentrate on a career at that time and have been in and out of jobs ever since. I’m only just starting to get myself together and after being inspired by your “coming out” post I have made some decisions and ‘a plan’ for the next 2 years. The job situation really gets me down, as I feel that we should have our own house by now and I feel 10 years behind everyone else my age. (i’m 30) it has a knock on affect on everything else as money is always tight and we can’t always afford to do the things we love, such as great holiday.
    on the other hand, my love life has always been something that is stable. I have been with the Mr since I was 15 and we got married 18 months ago. he is the one constant in my life and I know a lot of my friends with great jobs would kill to have that special someone to come home to. i suppose you can’t have it all…

  16. I was fourteen and just taken part in a magistrates mooting competition … I was in love with the law and my destionation … barrister. From this young age I wanted to go to uni move to London work hard and timble out of the office into a bar straight from the set of Ally Mcbeal (I think thats how you spelt it ). I had no intention of getting married until my mid thirties.

    And then… life happened, I did Law and in my final undergrad year met Mr H working in B&Q helping people design kitchens and bathrooms. 2007 came and I completed my Legal Practice Course and felt like the world was my oyster. Full of enthusiasm and hope (and in hindsight a lot of naivety) I went to work for a solicitors practice … only to find I HATED it. I put it in caps because no other word will do I didnt like the work found it completely target driven, beuracratic and the wonderful bunch of people I work with (check out the irony) were just simply mean.

    Sat in the back garden with the boy one sunny saturday afternoon I took away the mean people and replaced them with nice and decided I still wouldnt want to do this if someone gave me all the tea in China. So I handed in my notice, I felt confused and can only describe the manner in which my employers treated me for the remaning two months of my contract as abismal and border line bullying (please dont give up on me yet there is a bit more sad to come but I think I am in the process of finding my happy ending.)

    In 2008 I decided to work for a little known insurance company (uhum, big lie – we seem to be on the tv all the time). I have been through 3 roles in the company and currently work in the Qulait Department. In November eveything was going great me and the boy were due to get married (12th December if you’re interested ;0 ) and then something went bang in my brain. I am not too sure to how else to describe this but I suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Not even this was going to get in the way of me marrying the love of my life.

    I have just finished counselling but am still on antidepressents. Reading this blog and the wedding preparations made me realise how much I miss design. Armed with encouragement fr0m my wedding photographer (theyve been round for 20 years so must have seen their fair share of weddings right?) and support from my friends I have reduced my hours in work and The Little Wedding Genie is about to launch.

    Things I have learnt … take pleasure in the small things, if you find a road with no obstacles it definatly doesnt lead you anywhere interesting and damn right things are going to come up again but this life experience has not only shaped the person I am today but has helped me have faith in myself … no matter what gets thrown at me I will get back up and diversify (no plan required). Phew the past 5 years in a mini nutshell over xxx

  17. I think I fall between the two: I love making plans, but am happy to throw them to the wind if the need arises. I’m writing this in a hotel in Chicago – I made some really tight plans to return to uni, study hydrology and head into a PhD, but as things fell through my husband suggested we travel for a bit before emigrating in Australia – the sanest thought anyone’s ever expressed to me! it’s struggle sometimes – I like to think that there’s a path ahead, but sometimes it’s good for me to forget that and just enjoy myself!

  18. I have never really been a planner. I have tended to drift through life. This has worked for me so far.
    I knew I wanted to be married before I was 30. At 26 I’m way ahead of schedule. My work life is less stable though. After 6yrs working for the same company I think I’m going to be made redundant any day. Maybe even as early as tomorrow. This has left me wondering where my life is headed. I’m still young and I do know that eventually I want to run my own business. I just need to figure out a path there.
    I’m trying to see this as a positive experience. Hopefully it means a brighter future is just around the corner.
    Fingers crossed!

  19. I was never a great one for planning anyway (as in big-life-event planning -although I am obsessive over things like making shopping lists and keeping my diary up to date!!) but the last year has shown me that planning is, largely speaking, pointless. If you had told me this time last year that I would be single, living in London and spending much of my spare time with my dad, I’d never have believed you. But those are the sorts of curveballs life can throw at you. And the one thing that was vaguely on my almost-non-existent plan, to live and work abroad for a while, cannot happen at the moment (couldn’t leave my dad alone).

    But I’m proud of myself for where I am in my life now, so who needs a plan anyway?!

  20. (oh and Rebecca – I too hear friends talking about permanent jobs and maternity benefits etc and frankly I’m only too pleased I don’t have to think about those things!)

  21. I think it doesn’t matter whether you plan or not, so long as you do what works for you and makes you happy. It’s sometimes good to have targets to work toward, but it’s also important not to get so swept up in them that you forget to live life in the moment.
    I used to have all the usual ‘plans’ for marriage, house,babies etc, and when it didn’t work out for reasons beyond my control I felt like a failure. Now I look back and realise while I was moping over my failed plan I found the drive to achieve many other things that now make me very happy, and although life is going in a different direction, all is good! 
    Work hard, play hard, ‘fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run’ and it will all work out ok in the end!!

  22. I plan. It sometimes goes awry, and then I tinker with my plans, and make alterations, and then further changes on the alterations, but there’s always the long-term goal. The end goal doesn’t alter, it’s just the method of reaching my goal, that alters.

  23. Turning 30 crystallises the idea that you need a plan.

    Medicine does sort of do that planning for you. However, with illness and unexpected time away from work my plan has had to change. If I compare myself with the people I left university with I am a failure. However, this new life I am carving, one which will hopefully include medicine one day, it’s not bad. It’s not a plan but life is eve changing. Life can be good without the past calling to say hello and berating you (me!).

  24. When I was 18 or so I had plans (or shall I call them ‘dreams’?), and some of them certainly did come true – I moved to the UK (exactly 10 years ago yesterday!), I went to university to study something I truly enjoyed when I decided it was the right time for me, I married the man I loved…But then, life changed. Unexpectedly. And all my future plans, well, sort of went out of the window. Unfortunately I had to realise that you cannot fully control your health, nor you can force others your life depends on to follow YOUR plans… So I had to readjust my priorities and set only short term goals – baby steps towards things I feel I want to achieve within the next 6, 12 or 18 months the most. Being realistic about the future allows me to stress less and feel less anxious. Is it ideal? Not for me. I’m very much a planner and feeling like I’m not in control is difficult, but focusing too much on the long term plans is not always practical and can just make me disheartened sometimes. The only long term plan I have is to be a mother, keep my faith strong and love my husband wholeheartedly… everything else will hopefully fall into place. xx

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