PLANS… when was the last time something didn’t go to plan? Stupid question right now I guess, but how did you feel and did you have a back-up plan?

We often talk about going with the flow, but if like me, you really value order and planning this can be a challenge. In these unprecedented times, our best laid plans have generally been blown way out to sea so how are we coping with that? I do think life planning is somewhat of a societal construct as we are encouraged from a very young age to plan out our lives. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” we question every 5-year-old!! By 12 you are choosing which high school to attend, by 15 you have to choose the exams you need to take in order to take the next set of exams you will need to get in a University you may not even know exists yet! Why, at 15, should we be forced to plan for our lives at 22? It’s a hugely important growth stage in our personal development and I for one would not recognise myself looking back. Lord knows 15-year-old me wasn’t the best decision maker in the world so I’m glad I didn’t have to think about much else than my ballet and music training at that stage! 

But is this level of forward planning causing us even more problems at the moment because we don’t know how to divert from our planned path. Are we too focused on one way of life? Do we all need more contingency? It seems more people than I realised live quite a precarious existence where as little as one month without a salary, or even a full salary, tips them into financial ruin and as a society I think we need to be really concerned with that and examine the causes. Are we being set up to fail with a lifetime of student debt etc or are we taught to live to or even beyond our means? I have certainly examined my personal spending with having to drastically cut back to survive on less than half my usual income which makes me really take stock. Neither myself or my partner have come from money, our mums are both key workers (mine now retired) so I’m not talking from a “let them eat cake” POV in any way, but still, I’m really shocked by the number of people on a cliff edge.

So what if you do have a really clear plan and it goes to pot, what then? How do we cope? Giving another very personal example, I know people are starting to look at me with sympathy that I don’t have a child yet and my time is running out, but I’m sure I’ve done the right thing in waiting for the right person and being stable, because who says everything with a pregnancy will go to plan! I might plan to take a couple of months off work and end up needing a year. I’ve also never previously felt totally capable of financially providing for another person by myself. I hate the thought of relying on others, even in a steady relationship, there is a huge list of “what if’s…” for that scenario and infinite considerations! 

Career-wise, what if I had said ‘screw it’ to all the academic side of my studies and put all my eggs in the pointe shoe basket? Then that horse-riding accident at 19 followed by the real onset of my AS symptoms in my 20’s would have found me at a real cross-roads. I had options, my parents always wanted me to have a fall-back because the arts were just not seen as a viable career in their understanding. It’s never nice to be forced in any certain direction, but I changed tack and that’s how I ended up with a career as a theatrical agent for 10 years! There is nothing wrong with starting over, even if it’s because you just want to feel more fulfilled. I think it’s increasingly rare for people to only have one career throughout their lifetime. 

I’m obviously talking about big life plans here. Hopefully we are all past the stage of sweating the small stuff. I find the older I get the less I give a f*** really and I find it very freeing, I just have no truck with people coming to blows over a parking space or giving wait staff a mouthful because the dressing wasn’t on the side (don’t be a Karen). One thing a chronic illness will teach you is that you can forget your plans, because you never know what might happen to you from day to day so you better get used to being flexible. It may be more of an issue for those around you to grasp, so you just do you. 

As we start to think about coming out of lockdown I have no confidence in government guidelines so I will be making my own plans which feel right at safe for me and my clients. I know my industry is full of brilliant and highly trained, caring people who will do our utmost to adhere to best practices. But maybe we all need to learn from this (as it’s clearly far from over) that we need to be flexible in our plans and plan for when there is no plan!