Every semester for the last few years, I have begun the semester by assigning each of my freshman composition classes an essay from the writing prompt, “Where I Am Going? Where I Have Been: Where I see myself in five years.” The idea for the assignment comes from that old African proverb, “Journey, journey, this is my journey. Where are we going? Where have we been?”.
The purpose of the assignment is three fold. First of all, I simply need a writing sample from the students so that I know what I am facing. Second, I use the assignment as a means of getting to know my students. And last, but most importantly, I use the assignment as an opportunity for my students to take a moment of introspection and chart the journey that lies ahead.
Over the course of the next two or three weeks, we spend time in class and out of class revisiting and revising the essays until the finished product is a carefully and meticulously honed piece of academic writing, and they have thoroughly qualified and researched their chosen path in life.
With few exceptions, my students really enjoy this assignment. Many have later told me how the assignment allowed them to really think through the choices they had made. Others have told me that they felt empowered by the whole exercise, that they felt as if they were truly taking charge of their lives for the first time.
A few years back I even ran into an old student in
And I usually keep copies of the finished essays on hand should I ever get the same students again in a higher level composition or literature class. When this occurs, I often pull out their old “five year plans” just to see how much has changed since they wrote the original essay.
However, just yesterday evening I was going through my things and purging many of these old essays when I realized that for the whole of the time that I have been giving this assignment, I had failed to sit down and compose a five year plan of my own. And I have always been one who believes that to proceed without a plan is like tightrope walking without a net.
But much as I am loathe to admit, I really don’t have a plan perhaps beyond the next few months, and that is unlike me.
Oh, I have very general plans. In five years I know that my children will be off to college, and my wife and I will be finally have the house to our selves. I have a general goal of being completely debt free so that I might be able to save more and retire earlier. I know that I would like to be able to travel to some of those destinations I have dreamed about so long. But that’s it.
And suddenly realizing that I am without a plan, a real plan, frightens me, makes me feel unprepared and vulnerable. And perhaps, at the risk of revealing my sometimes anal retentive personality, I am going to spend the rest of the afternoon formulating a detailed plan of the next five years of my life.
Why don’t you take the time to join me?