Thursday, August 11, 2016

Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?

My potential employer and I sat across from one another in her modest, but non-profit spacious office. The typical exchange of business causal pleasantries had been exhausted, and I had laid out a passionate explanation of my motives for wanting the job. Then she asked, "So, where do you see yourself in five years?"

Now this particular question, and its popularity in job interviews, has always perplexed me. Do employers expect a person in their mid-twenties to have a well-formed answer to it? I assume the correct answer is along the lines of,  

"I see myself learning and growing with this company, hopefully into a supervisory position that will last a lifetime."

Anyone can look at modern day career statistics and know that the average American has not made up our damn minds when it comes to our employment paths. Or, maybe it's just me. Perhaps, I'm less prepared and responsible than others my age, and it is completely irrational to be so bothered by a simple, prophetic question.

I looked at my interviewer, paused, then smiled and said,  


One of the most profound shifts in my thinking since moving abroad, and then returning home, is the way in which I imagine my future. It's not a stagnant plan. It's an opportunity. I can reach back into memory about the way I answered this question when applying for my first professional job. I grossly underestimated my potential. How could I have known that I would not only, decide to ship off to Vietnam, but that it also would have been the best determination of my life to date? That sounded ludicrous two years ago, but it is the truth today.

Giving up everything to start over somewhere new, worked for me. It gave me so many opportunities, changed the way in which I experience the world and reshaped the way in which I see myself. I feel more pragmatic, but less restricted. When I look at the map on the wall in my apartment, those paper countries don't seem like distant dreams any more. They are future potential.

Of course, maybe I won't live abroad again. I will certainly travel, but I could find a dream career and content lifestyle in Kentucky. That reality does not seem impossible. I'm mostly satisfied with where I am at this point in my transition home. Being here is nice, and familiar in a way that I need it to be.

But, I do get frustrated when crossing the street from time to time. Standing at a crosswalk, waiting for the light to flip, I can't help but think about how maddeningly ordered it is. When I walk the streets of my neighborhood, there is no music, no people on their porches, no life aside from chittering squirrels. The peace and quiet I was aching for in Saigon, now comes across as isolating on certain occasions. Sometimes I sit back and think,

"Man, all I've got now are the memories."

My lustful need for an alternative lifestyle is nothing more than a flicker in those moments, but overtime it grows into a flame. It is the cycle of travel, and I have given up on trying to fight it.

So, the truth is that I haven't the faintest idea of where I may find myself in five years. Hell, I'm doing good on my current one year plan. What I do know is that I am here now. I am living my life in Kentucky as it happens to me, and attempting to take as active of a role in its development as I can. My mindset doesn't feel any different that it did in Vietnam. This is just the space I happen to be inhabiting. I will continue to do so, until I find that there is a better way of living. There are a million ways that my next five years could unfold, and so focusing on only one of them feels risky to me.

Opportunity is cyclical, and I am really learning to trust in that idea. As each new chance comes, I'll assess its significance to me, but I worry that too much preparation may leave me wandering what I could have done. It is my openness to opportunity and receptivity to change that will get me where I need to be in five years. Wherever that may be, I'll make it work.

That day, in that small office, I answered the daunting five year question honestly. I was pleased to know that it was the answer they were looking for.

"Easy does it. There is no need to hurry or to force things to happen. 
Everything is occurring in perfect timing."
- Message from the goddess Oonagh