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I’m pondering something Tyler Tervooren listed on his “5 Pillars of Awesome Risk Taking” over at the Advanced Riskology blog: “throw away Plan B.” The idea being that we all know deep in our infinitely wise and visceral hearts exactly what it is that makes us burn with energy and desire, and we should do whatever it takes to achieve that Plan A, because, as Tyler puts it, “If you know deep down what you want (and I think everyone does, but most are afraid to allow themselves to believe it) then you should avoid having a Plan B at all cost. If you already have one, you should do everything within your power to dismantle it. Plan B is a major distraction to Plan A.” He also distinguishes plans from dreams. In other words, the dream is the bedrock that does not change. Plan A is just the current course to achieving it.
I can see evidence of this in my own journey. The dream has not changed – doing research and working with cultural resource management. That’s the bedrock. The rest is the detritus of uncertainty, past and future speculation. What I take Plan A to mean in this context is the present. Seizing the moment and what it can do for the dream. And, importantly, the dream is not the same as the “dream job.” That can manifest in a variety of unexpected ways.
Obviously this is part of my wake-up call to stop getting ahead of myself. I hate waiting for decisions outside of my control. I hate the sensation of getting energized about an opportunity that fizzles out. That feeling of discomfort does not mean it’s a negative experience, however. I have experienced enough significant synchronicity in my life to realize that the proper unwinding of experience is not the way I envisioned it in my daydream.
As the waiting game continues on my fellowship applications (and my practical side is already resigned to the fact that they most likely went to Ph.D history students as they have in the past), I realized I’ve been coming back again and again to the same mantra. Rejection is always opportunity. Is this counterintuitive? It feels that way. Of course our ego tells us we want the perceived “dream job,” and the sooner the better. But if we always get what we think we want in the moment, who knows what opportunities are unrealized?
In my case, I still revisit the disappointment of coming so close to my “dream job” at the Museum of New Mexico 2 years ago. Then I dig a little deeper. Even if I had decided to pursue my MA at that point, would I have had the flexibility in that position to take classes? Probably not. And if I felt like I had reached my intended destination, I probably would not have followed the instinct to continue my education. In doing so, I discovered a passion and proclivity for art historical research that infuses me with meaning and flow. I don’t know if I would have figured that out in my “dream job.” And now, I’m not sure that would have been my dream job after all. I really want a job where I can apply that drive towards research and scholarship. That’s the real dream for me, the real life-long pursuit.
I spent the week tweaking my cover letter to apply for the Sophie Aberle fellowship at the Center for Southwest Research at UNM. This fellowship represents the best of my ambitions – a chance to get paid to do research and work on a library project at the same time. Specifically it is a project to choose historical state documents and digitize them into the library collection: “The fellow will select documents for scanning, create descriptions, and load them into the CSWR image management system, CONTENTdm. The fellow will also write contextual information to help users, especially students, understand the events leading to statehood as well as New Mexico society and culture in the statehood era.” My cover letter stresses my digitization experience and the fact that I have worked with CONTENTdm on several other projects.
Anyway, it sounds like a unique opportunity, and fits perfectly (20 hours a week, spring and fall semesters) into my schedule for next year. Perhaps more importantly, it was the push I needed to make the decision to accept the GA position and go to school full time. I was riding the fence when the fellowship was advertised, and it definitely seemed like a sign. Whether or not I get it, it was posted three days before I needed to decide whether or not to sign the GA contract. While I would have gone with my instinct regardless and may have made the same decision, who knows?
I am not really a new-agey believer in portents, but I do think signs are useful indicators of what we truly want to happen in our lives. I felt a rush of excitement when I read about this fellowship, telling me what I needed to know about seeking new challenges and opportunities.