Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Making Plans--Or Not

Before we get too far away from the coverage that happened around September 11, let me record the most interesting thing I came across.

In this story on NPR's All Things Considered on Sunday, September 11, 2016, Kenneth Feinberg talked about being in charge of the process to distribute money to the victims and the families of victims killed on Sept. 11, 2001.  He   said that the work changed him:  "You become very, very fatalistic. Young people come to me all the time with their resumes saying this is what they're going to do two years from now, four years from now, six years from now. I tell them don't plan so far ahead. Life has a way of changing the best laid plans. You may think you know what you're going to be doing a year from now or two years from now. I don't think I plan more than two or three weeks ahead because everybody gets curveballs one day or another."

I'm not sure why that idea seems so radical to me--after all, I have spent a significant amount of time preparing for disasters that have never happened, while at the same time being blindsided by events I never would have anticipated.

I have often thought about how strange it is that we expect people who are 18-20 years old to pick a major and a life path--in fact now, we often expect children to do that at an even younger age, as so many of them take college classes in high school and arrive at college with a bulk of work completed.

I've noticed a sense of shame amongst those of us who are feeling a bit burnt out in careers that we chose 20-30 years ago, and we don't have a great set of options for people who need a change.  Go back to school and burn through money we might need for retirement?  Who should write letters of recommendation that we might use to look for this career change? 

I wonder if we could develop some sort of internship program for older people--a way to try out careers before making a huge leap.  A sabbatical program could certainly help with the burnout that so many of us feel, but most of us don't work in places that could support that.

I don't have any easy answers of course.  But one of the other lessons/reminders of September 11 is that we're all here on this planet for a very short time, and it can all end rather suddenly--these questions are worth wrestling with.

Or, as Feinberg would tell us, maybe they're not.  Maybe we should stay open to possibilities, and trust that when we need them, new opportunities will arise.

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