What I Didn’t Say on My Job Questionnaire

I applied to a job sometime last week and received a follow-up questionnaire via e-mail asking some basic interview-type questions.  One of these questions is one we get all the time in interviews: Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?

I was immediately frustrated–nay, infuriated.  I might have had a different reaction straight out of college, when I was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but today is a different horse altogether.  Here is what I didn’t say:

How unfair is this question?!  I mean, obviously if I get this job, I’ll picture my life a lot differently than if I’m still stuck in a dead-end job.  Here I am, scraping by, barely keeping myself afloat, and you want me to construct some fantasy life that I may or, most likely, may not be living in 3-5 years?

Let’s go back 3-5 years from today.  Did I picture myself living in my hometown, having spent half of my time since graduation unemployed and the other half of the time earning barely a poverty-level income?  Absolutely not.  I had huge dreams.  I wanted to go to grad school.  I wanted to move far, far away–someplace like Colorado, or Tennessee, or Oregon.  I wanted to be independent, to prove myself as a “real” adult.  I wanted to get married or at least have someone I loved who loved me back.  I thought, least of all, that I might have a job that used my basic skills.

After nine grad school rejections, after moving away, getting laid off, and having to return home broke and with my figurative tail between my legs, after three soul-crushing jobs and the prospect of moving back into the house I grew up in, after all of my friends have spread out to every corner of the world, I have watched each aspect of the dream for my future break apart and disintegrate in front of my eyes.

Needless to say, I have learned that plans don’t work out.  Life is one crazy, chaotic ride, and to think you have any control over it whatsoever is just a joke.  So this job wants me to construct a vision for 3-5 years from now?  Here it is:

I picture myself dating someone, or maybe married, or still single.  I picture myself still in Chicago.  Or, maybe in Nashville or Portland or Boulder.  Or, hell, who’s to say it won’t be Duluth, Quebec City, or Hong Kong?  I picture myself in management or owning my own business or as a stay-at-home mom.  I picture myself as a lottery winner.  I picture myself as a grad student.  I picture myself at church, on my knees, or living in a box, covered in dirt.  I picture teaching, learning, reading books.  Painting, climbing, digging, running, running, running, running…

The fact of the matter is that I’m afraid to picture anything, honestly, for fear of it being nothing but a reflection that will ripple away in the waves.  But, in 3-5 years I sure hope I’m at least happy.

Do you have a vision for your future?  How has a vision for your future not worked out?  How has a vision worked out?

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