Thoughts & Drabbles

Five Year Plans

The real reason I never made a five year plan is not because I am a flake but because I was never happy enough where I was to imagine continuing that situation for another five years.

At the time I was supposed to tell you, “In five years I will have invented X and married Y and received Z promotion or award. I’m going to become CEO and change the world.” That’s the point of a five year plan, after all, right? To show others what magnificent goals you plan to achieve. That seemed to be the reason that my employers and parents asked for it.

For me that’s too much pressure.

I think it’s important to reassess every few years if where you’re going is where you want to go. And if not? Change.

For the first time ever, like really ever, I’m in a job that I enjoy and can see a near future that makes me happy. It’s easy to plan when the future looks bright.

Five year plans make sense for government programs and financial plans but not for my life. So here instead I present you an idea for my next three years, with the caveat that it’s subject to change at any time for any reason.

  • Now ~ August, 2020
    • Finish current contract
    • Take TOPIK II and pass level 3
    • Obtain new teaching contract in more rural area
      • School: public 1-12 or private kindy; open to language schools if salary and vacation time are appropriate
    • Visit former students in China (if coronavirus has been eradicated)
  • August ~ September 2020:
    • Return home for a short holiday to visit friends and family
  • September 2020 ~ September 2021
    • Teach in Gyeongsangnam
    • Obtain teaching license online
    • Take Praxis licensing exams for ESOL K-12, elementary (or middle/high), and one subject (potentially STEM technology or science)
    • Start online Chinese classes through Keats or university
  • September 2021 ~ February 2022
    • Attend intensive language program in China
    • OR travel East Asia
    • OR start off-season China teaching contract
  • March 2022 ~ March 2023
    • Start teaching contract in China at international or private school, negotiate for at least 25k CNY
  • March 2023
    • Reassess career
      • If I want to continue English education > obtain Master’s in Linguistics online or at UK university
      • If I want to re-enter STEM field > talk to existing contacts to see what potential positions I can get, if necessary obtain graduate degree (MBA or other)
      • If I want to move back to the US in another field > get realtor’s license and work while studying or applying for other fields

Other goals include: complete EMT training, learn to ride a motorcycle, open a BnB after retirement, adopt, own a house with a bidet.

Shonda Rhimes said in her excellent Dartmouth speech, which I recommend you read in its entirety:

I think a lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really happy people, the really successful people, the really interesting, engaged, powerful people, are busy doing. The dreamers. They stare at the sky and they make plans and they hope and they talk about it endlessly. And they start a lot of sentences with “I want to be …” or “I wish.” “I want to be a writer.” “I wish I could travel around the world.” And they dream of it.

The buttoned-up ones meet for cocktails and they brag about their dreams, and the hippie ones have vision boards and they meditate about their dreams. Maybe you write in journals about your dreams or discuss it endlessly with your best friend or your girlfriend or your mother. And it feels really good. You’re talking about it, and you’re planning it. Kind of. You are blue-skying your life. And that is what everyone says you should be doing. Right? I mean, that’s what Oprah and Bill Gates did to get successful, right?


Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral, pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.

So, Lesson One, I guess is: Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer. Maybe you know exactly what it is you dream of being, or maybe you’re paralyzed because you have no idea what your passion is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn’t have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. Just … do. So you think, “I wish I could travel.” Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious.

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