Most hated question ever. E-V-E-R! So why is it the most often asked? And maybe it’s not, maybe it’s because I hate it so frickin’ much that I fixate on it when asked: Counselors in college forcing your hand to choose a major (seriously happened to me). Family worried you will never make a decision and leave the nest (my Mom was ecstatic that I married so young). Friends thinking you’re crazy because, not only have they chosen a career while you ‘just sat there,’ but they have already left home and are on their own. But the one that stands out most to me; that runs down my spine like a sharp, jagged fingernail? The one asked in job interviews again and again:
“So, where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
(asked with a smile I’d personally like to wipe off my interviewer’s face)
I cannot possibly wrap my Autistic brain around that question. Truth be told, I don’t actually know what it means. I hear the words and know it’s one of those psychological questions HR (Human Resources) throws out there to discern a candidate’s aspirations, goals and job longevity. The question I’m suppose to answer making myself shine like a beacon screaming: “Pick me! I’m the one!!”
But I think it’s bogus.
You’re trying to tell me there are people out there that know what they want? And that they have different goals at various stages throughout their lives? That they plan for these things, take the necessary steps and work directionally to attain these final goals? Seriously?
Fascinating… What must that be like?
There Is No Future
Hang on before you worry yourselves that this is going to be a bleak post of sadness and despair. It most certainly is not. I know my blogging has been scarce the last month (I’m remedying that as we speak)… but you guys know me better than that!
I was tweeting with my friend, Dave, the other day and a subject came up that I have discussed with other Autistic friends as well. And it is this:
We see no future.
[Note: This is not a figurative ‘cry for help.’ It is very literal in the sense that we actually cannot see a fututre.]
Now, Dave is Autistic like I am, and we see eye-to-eye on quite a lot of things – which is a refreshing change of pace considering I’ve been misunderstood and been misunderstanding things my entire life. So when he tweeted me the other day:
“I’m a little lost in myself at the moment, for the first time ever the future has started to worry me… I have a hard time picturing things…”
I stopped in my tracks. Dave was worried about a future he had a hard time picturing (it was like he was taking the thoughts right out of my head). I had been considering a post about my perceptions of the future and what it means - or rather, doesn’t mean - to me. And then Dave happened to tweet the magical (and reassuring) message above.
“I’m quoting you!”
I told him. It was an obvious sign to write this post, so here we go…
What Are Your Thoughts?
When I ask you where you see yourself in 5 years you may say:
- Graduating college
- Having children
- Owning your own home
- Running your own business
- Running from the law
- Writing a bestselling novel
- Accepting the Nobel Peace Price
And if you can’t answer right away, you might think on it a bit. Consider your likes and dislikes, your wants and needs in regards to these things, and where you’d like to see yourself…
down the road.
Road? There’s A Road?
Where the hell’s the map?! You see, when I tell you I don’t see a future, that’s exactly what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, routine-wise, I have each day planned down to a ‘T’ – but that’s not what this is about. We’re talking big time future. The next decade and, even more ambiguous…
T h e R e s t O f Y o u r L i f e
Well now there’s a scary thought. How on Earth am I suppose to sit here and guess what the rest of my life is going to look like. Aside from my routine, I don’t know what next week is going to look like. And you’re talking big time future! I’m not there. I’ve never been there. And yes I have certain likes and dislikes but what does that have to do with where I’ll be in say 5-10 years? And how do I know what I want now is what I’ll want…
down the road?
The Big Picture And How I Consistently Miss It
I’m a detail person. I will find the needle in the haystack. Every. Time. However, the Big Picture is a mythical beast I’ve never had the pleasure of encountering. Heard of it many times, though, and it sounded something like this…
“Renée, you’re missing the Big Picture.”
I cannot see past the day I am in. Unless it is a question of schedule or routine, I really can’t do it. Maybe that’s why it took me 39 years to find a career. And I’ll be honest, I did not choose to become a writer. Or an advocate. Or a blogger. Every single one of those things happened through others’ suggestions. I was messing around and wrote a fiction book and J said: “Hey, why don’t you write a book about being Autistic.”
So I did.
I didn’t know anything about advocacy. I had been advocating, but I didn’t realize that’s what it was. My kids needed certain things, so I made sure they got them. Because that’s what parents do. And the VBPD PIP program for advocacy, that I gush about every so often? Didn’t know a thing about it. My friend Fran said: “You need to do this!”
So I did.
And blogging? I didn’t even know what it was exactly. Then J (of course) said to me: “You need to start a blog for your advocacy.”
So I did.
So this is the part in our relationship where I show you my Achilles heel. This independent person that seemingly moves through life with purpose; that cannot fathom listening to or taking others’ advice; that will not ask for help; that will research a subject until she’s blue in the face because she can’t ask someone else for information and believe it’s not faulty in some way…
Cannot plan her own future.
(this fact evident in what I revealed to you above)
So Here I Am…
Smack dab in the middle of the Big Picture: My future. Yesssss! Well done me! Must have been all that planning and hard work. All that futuristic insight I nurtured from such a young age. The constant care and consideration of that fateful question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” Right?
I couldn’t see the future when I was 10. Or 20. Or 30 or even now at 41. I will never see the future because the fact of the matter is, it is truly impossible for me to do. In 5 years I will end up where I end up. Simple as that. It’s all conjecture at this point because anything can happen. And that’s at the crux of it my dear friends, because if anything can happen then that means
Renée does not have control.
(And I think we all know how Renée feels about control because she told us about it here).
There is no way to control the future. Perhaps that’s the reason I’m unable to even tackle the idea of it, because there are too many unknown variables. Too many possibilities. Too many choices. We can choose a course or direction and it might work out the way we plan… kinda’ sorta.’ And most that I know fit in that category – they get where they’re going one way or another (but at the very least they know where they’re going). However, I’ve never met anyone that said to me:
“Wow! Life truly is perfect because everything I always wanted happened exactly the way I knew it would.”
And that thought gives me pause. Maybe it’s okay to admit that I can’t see the future. And maybe it’s okay for me to live ‘in the moment’ because I’ve (accidentally) surrounded myself with good people and I’m safe. And, yes I admit it’s impossible for me to see down the road. I own that. But maybe that doesn’t make me the slacker I always thought I was for not pre-planning my life and knowing exactly where I’d be like everyone else did.
Maybe I should have just played it up whenever asked, as if I knew what was what. Like in my last job interview (years ago), when the woman baited me with, where I saw myself in 5 years. Maybe just for the hell of it I should have said:
“In your position, and I’ll do it in two.”
Then maybe I wouldn’t have been the only one in the room fearing an unforeseeable future at a loaded question.