Then he tweeted this the other day:
Why have goals, if you're then so focused you limit yourself to the limits of your imagination? Have a *direction* but a plan? Nah.
AWESOME! Of course I immediately ReTweeted, because that's what you do on Twitter when you read something you like and agree with.
You see, depending on your perspective, my PhD is not the best testimony for getting anywhere, as I never planned to do it, and stumbled into it by accident. I had a laugh with my supervisor yesterday as he recalled his surprise that I had applied to do a Masters by Research, and his greater surprise when I was offered a scholarship to study it. But at the same time it is a good testimony in that I am enjoying it, and have upgraded to do a PhD; even though this was not originally my plan, it has now become so.
But the truth is, I never had much of a plan. I never wanted to do any particular job when I was little. My plan was to go overseas and teach English, partly for lack of another plan. And so things fell into place for me.
So when people ask me where the PhD will take me, or what I plan to do after, or what job it gets me (are there really many university degrees that "get" you jobs anymore? don't we all have to still make choices and risk rejection?), I say I don't know. I have no plans as yet. I did not plan to be here, and this is working well for me, so I won't plan too far ahead. I don't know enough of my options to be able to set goals. Yes I want a good job after my PhD. Yes I secretly dream of buying just one $300 handbag, and maybe one day funding a scholarship for linguistics students to go to conferences (I tell myself this last one as comfort at the amount of money I have to spend now). But will I do research? A post doc? An academic position? An industry position? A government position? Or will I go overseas afterall and just teach English?
Who knows? And that's okay. When I get closer to Dr-1 (one year before Doctorhood) I'll start looking into the options more thoroughly, and maybe narrow down my directions. But why stress until then?
So many PhD students get to the end and think, "Was it really worth it? Would it have been better to have gotten an industry job first? Then I'd have more money, more experience and more direction." And I'm sure there's a few gratuitous PhDs insofar as the research done is never used or referred to ever again, even in the student's own life. So yes it's worth knowing there's life after a PhD. And yes it's worth having a dream, a goal, a direction. But not having one does not cause any problems at this point.
I suppose that connected to this is my Tangential Theory of Time, which I've written about on my other blog so you can read it there. It's connected insofar as I can see the next few years before me, hazily. If I look any further and choose a goal to aim for, something's bound to happen in the meantime that will make me change direction, and give up that future. I'll wait until I'm closer to that bend in the road before I try to see around it.
As @GetItDoneGuy said, why limit myself to my own imagination?
So to the people who don't know where they're going either: let's enjoy the ride!
And to the people nagging people for a 10 year plan: back off a little. Be reasonable.
Here's to bends in the road, to happy opportunities and to knowing what we're doing now before we know what we're doing next!