I was sitting on Ivan’s couch the other night, surfing the Web. Ivan, who was writing a 30-page screenplay for class, comes out into the living room to take a break from staring at a blinking cursor. Upon seeing me, he starts talking about being distracted for the past few minutes. What was distracting him?
An old Renaissance-era architecture journal. It had caught his attention at that moment in time, and stuck with him enough for it to warrant a conversation. So, he told me about it.
"Hey AJ, if you just failed epically at life, would you want to become an architect with me?"
The question was very non-sequitur; my only reaction was another question. “Why are you asking?”
He explained to me his distractions found in the architecture journal, and how it was interesting to him. Sometimes Ivan jokes about doing something for the sake of being a hipster, but I think he was serious about this.
"If I just epically fail at life, I’ll go to school in Kansas City and become an architect."
He then asked me if I would consider architecture as a backup plan, to which my response was “journalism is my backup plan, dude.”
"No, you don’t get it," Ivan said. "If you completely fail and quit mass media. What would you do?"
I thought for a moment. Architecture might be interesting. “If I had a complete breakdown, then yes, I’d consider it.” Then I remembered a classic boyhood answer.
"I’d probably want to design cars, either for actual companies, or Hot Wheels." Heck, I want to work for Hot Wheels at some point in my life anyway. That’s always been a little dream of mine.
That got the gears turning, the cogs working on the subject of backup plans. Having one is important, especially in today’s vicious job market. My backup plan is indeed journalism full time, but something relating to automotive design would be a secondary option. Either that, or something like archaeology/history. I’d work for museums or historical societies. That’s still something I’d do in conjunction with mass media, so I won’t fully count it for the sake of this blog. Also, I have a point to make coming up.
For more viewpoints on this subject, I consulted Andrew—Ivan’s roommate, and our awesome friend. His girlfriend Leigh was listening intently as I asked the other A.J. what he would do if he “just completely failed, had a horrible first attempt at life.”
"I would move to a little mountain town in Colorado, and be a hermit," he said. "I’d work for a ski resort, or maybe a ski shop. I could put my barista skills to use too. I’d just be a really happy poor person, in a beautiful place."
Not a bad plan. I’d do something similar if I wasn’t so attracted to being an artist or thinker of some sort. Being a poor person in a beautiful place is definitely something that will happen to me in life. At this point, I’m not going to say “yeah, I’ll be a rich bastard and live in Ski-Town, Colorado.” That’s not very realistic for a person with a liberal arts degree.
Leigh is a philosophy major; her “failure to launch” would result in, um, not much happening… what do you do with a philosophy degree? We still ponder that question. She’s down for being a lifetime student and broke writer, with no real “plan” to begin with.
During all the jokes about being poverty-stricken bums, I actually did some thinking on the phrase “backup plan.” I came to a couple of conclusions about myself.
One: all of my interests collide and intersect at some point. Mass media works pretty perfectly in conjunction with archaeology, or automotive design. It even works for me if I’m a Subaru-driving snow-hole in Colorado. Hell, if I became an architect it would still come in handy. That evidence leads to my second conclusion…
Two: no matter what, I can’t escape mass media. My love for writing and telling stories isn’t going to go away anytime soon. It can work in harmony with whatever else I decide to do, but it’ll never fully go away. It’s natural, I guess. It’s a natural choice for me. I wouldn’t be very honest with myself if I suppressed it somehow. That line of thinking leads me to…
Three: what’s the purpose of a backup plan? To make yourself feel better if you fail at something? Life is about measuring failures and successes; it’s pretty much guaranteed that failures will outweigh everything else. I’m not really worried about failing, because I know it’s natural. If you love what you do, then you won’t mind falling on your face for it a few times.
"If you don’t love what you do, then why bother?" If you love working for a ski shop in Mountain Town USA, then that’s great. I’ll come see you when I need skis or something. I just hope you’ve failed enough times before seeing me, so that you’re at your most knowledgable and helpful when I show up… I know next to nothing about skiing.
I guess my point is this: backup plans are cool, but I never want to implement mine. It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. It also, oddly enough, made that list of things I want to do in life just a little bit longer. C’est la vie. I do love it when a plan comes together, though. If I have any goal for myself, it’s that my plans come together and function seamlessly.
Here’s to hoping. Until next time…